Miscues spoil another strong run for Bell

Christopher Bell was again left lamenting mistakes after a long night in the Southern 500 resulted in a 23rd-place finish.

"Definitely got to work on it," Bell said. "It's been our Achilles' heel for basically the whole summer. Definitely got to work on it."

Bell was the fastest driver at Darlington Raceway in practice and qualifying Saturday. But the first 33 laps of the race were the strongest and cleanest part of his night.

On the team's first pit stop, the jack dropped on the right side of the car, which cost Bell the race lead. Under green flag conditions, he dropped to sixth in the running order. It was a disappointing turn of events for a team that was placed on Bell's car earlier this week by Joe Gibbs Racing because of their strong performances all year while previously working with Ty Gibbs.

With a fast enough car, Bell rallied to regain a few spots but then hit the wall in Turn 2 with a few laps to go in the stage. Bell dropped to eighth by the time the stage ended. The car was never the same after the contact and Bell struggled on track as the team tried to make repairs for it to be drivable.

"Just got in the marbles in Turn 2 and damaged the car, really," Bell said. "That was pretty much the story of our night."

Behind on their track position, the No. 20 team led by crew chief Adam Stevens tried different pit strategies to keep Bell in the game. But it never worked out in his favor, and the car was never strong enough to run as well as it did at the start of the race.

"If we don't damage the car, I think it probably works out OK because we're able to get them on the long run," Bell said. "But (we've) got to limit mistakes, for sure."

Bell dropped to the playoff grid cutline after Sunday night's race. He is one point ahead of Bubba Wallace.

"We have speed," Bell said looking ahead. "We've had speed a lot, and I know that in Kansas, we're going to be fast again. That's been a really good track for Toyota. I know that we have the speed to do it; we've just got to put it all together."