DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Christopher Bell is the hot pick to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. While Bell drives for Leavine Family Racing, LFR is now closer aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing, making Bell’s No. 95 Toyota essentially a fifth Joe Gibbs Racing car.
JGR won 19 of the 36 points paying races last year including the Daytona 500, Coke 600, Southern 500, Bristol Night Race and the championship as well. So, for Bell to be closely aligned with them, he’s an easy pick.
Bell, will start 17th in Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN) in his first career Cup Series start. That’s worth noting.
Fellow ROY contenders Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek have made past Cup Series starts before. They didn’t make more than seven starts before 2020, so they retain their rookie status.
Bell, well this is start No. 1. Where that noteworthy is, there’s a lot of difference between the NASCAR XFINITY Series car that he’s driven the last two years compared to the Cup car that he’s in now.
The Cup car has less horsepower but way more downforce than the car that he’s raced recently. His driving style will have to completely change because where he likes to have a loose race car, it’s not going to work with this car. Running the high line isn’t the fast way around on the Cup side.
Then, there’s the digital dash factor that he’s never had at his disposal before. That’s a big change. Also, there’s the change in longer races now. Bell, is a USAC star and used to running short sprint races. Then, he moved his way up to the Trucks then to Xfinity Series competition. The longest race that Bell has ever raced in was 300 miles. There’s a lot of Cup races that are 500 miles in length, including Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway. That’s 200 extra miles of racing for him, which will be noticeable too.
The quicker Bell can adapt, the better his case for ROY will be.