DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Toyotas may be outnumbered, but they‘ll be working together as usual in Sunday‘s Daytona 500, says Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Camry.
“I’m sure we’ll talk about that later on in the week,” who posted the ninth-fastest lap in last Sunday‘s time trials for the Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “But it’s tough because we’re outnumbered so bad, it’s hard to think all the Toyotas are going to be able to compete against all that Ford and Chevrolet have.”
On the other hand, even with just five factory-backed teams, Toyota drivers have excelled in NASCAR‘s most prestigious race. In both of Denny Hamlin‘s Daytona 500 victories, Toyota Camrys have swept the top three positions.
“Whenever you get down to the end of it, it’s totally different,” Bell said. “Typically, a lot of crashes have taken a lot of cars out. You have to look around and see what’s left. Yeah, I would imagine we’re going to do everything we can to help each other.”
Bell has focused on the upcoming Daytona 500 at the expense of dirt racing plans in the week preceding the race. He forewent a World of Outlaws appearance at Volusia Speedway on Sunday and sprint car races at East Bay in Tampa the following two days to concentrate on preparation for his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Also contributing to his decision was a violent wreck during midget competition at Western Springs in Auckland, New Zealand, in December.
“I was originally planning on running Volusia, East Bay, East Bay,” Bell said. “When I started looking at the details of it, I’m like, ‘Man, this is my first Cup race weekend. I really need to focus on that.‘ I just decided to skip Florida. Unfortunately, the dirt racing doesn’t really start again until later on in the year. You’ll be able to hopefully catch me in a car Easter weekend (the first Cup ‘off‘ week).”
Bell said he didn‘t feel pressure from his team in making the schedule change. Rather, the impetus came from within.
“The last that I talked to the team about it, they were giving me approval to go do it,” Bell said. “But I felt like I owed it to them to show them that this is my job, and I am solely focused on the Daytona 500, starting my Cup season out right.