Saturday Xfinity race in Indianapolis: start time, forecast

Believe it or not, Christopher Bell has not come to fear on Thursdays.

That’s when NASCAR announces the starting lineup, based on a random drawing, for Cup races.

Due to his position in the owner points (on which the draw is based), the rookie driver has started 32nd or worse in five of the last seven races. That hard patch continues Sunday at the Brickyard 400 (4 p.m. ET on NBC), when Bell and his No. 95 Toyota start 35th.

“Honestly, I haven’t even been paying attention to it,” Bell said Friday at a Zoom press conference. “I go to the racecourse and then listen to see what the damage is when my team tells me about it. But it is the name of the game and we buried ourselves there for the first four weeks and really killed our points. ”

For Bell, the first four races of his Cup career were a “disaster” as he had two DNFs and couldn’t finish better than 21.

After NASCAR’s COVID-19 shutdown, that bad start continued at Darlington, where it came in at 24th. But its slow rebound started in Darlington’s second run at 11th. He followed that up with his first top 10 at Coca-Cola 600.

Since the sport’s return, Bell has had five finishes of 11th or better, including his first career top-5 in Pocono’s double-race last weekend. His only DNF since May 17 was from an accident in Pocono’s second race.

But it was not enough to get out of the basement of the owner’s point ranking and achieve their “No. 1 goal” of reaching 24th place. The way random draws are conducted, being 24 in owner points, would allow Bell start anywhere between 13 and 24.

“It’s crazy … I ran fourth for Pocono 1 and then I looked at the points and didn’t advance at all because I’m pretty sure that (Michael) McDowell ran eighth and the guys I’m running with on points, it seems like every time I I have a good day, they also have a good day, “said Bell.

Across 15 runs, Bell is ranked 26th in owner points. He follows McDowell by three points and his rookie teammate John Hunter Nemechek, who is in 24th place, by 17 points.

“So it has been very frustrating, we are just going to keep plugging in and luckily these races are 400-500 miles and not sprinting,” Bell said.

For Bell, the strategy involved in Cup races compared to Xfinity’s shorter races is what surprised him most about his rookie season with Leavine Family Racing. The biggest difference: pit stops.

“It seems that the races are much more dynamic in the Cup, you know that the strategy is in all areas,” said Bell. “Even if you go to a place like Atlanta or Homestead where you put four tires every time you play, there can be 10 pit stops in one race. Compared to the Xfinity series, there are guaranteed to be only three, maybe four. So it has been very revealing how many times you come down the pits, how many times you fall. But from a competition point of view, I knew what I was getting into the Cup for. On the Xfinity side you have that number of eight ish competitive cars and that number becomes 25 on the Cup side. ” .

As he begins his 16th Cup and his first Brickyard 400, he can count Bell among the drivers who have really preferred not to have practice and qualification, even if it means he’s starting on the field.

“For me, I feel like it fits in with what I grew up doing,” Bell said. “And if you look at our performance, we’ve run exceptionally better since we stopped practicing for whatever reason. But I really enjoy it and as a rookie, going to the race track … I’m not starting on pole or on the front row so I don’t have to open wide at turn 1 and wait for the car to hit or whatever you know. I have enough time to start in the back that we are able to stealthily advance and I feel like I have I did a good job of not going over my limits and making sure I got to the first pit stop where we can tune in to the car to my liking and things like that. ”