Sean Gardner | Getty Images
RICHMOND, Va. – Christopher Bell said that he made a mistake in sparking a late-race crash last weekend with Ross Chastain, but that he stood his ground in an effort to race him as he has been raced in the past.
Six days after the crash that ruined the results for both Bell and Chastain at Michigan, both drivers explained their sides of the conflict before Saturday’s qualifying session at Richmond Raceway, site of Sunday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (3 pm ET, USA, NBC Sports App , MRN, SiriusXM). Both drivers suffered multiple laps at Michigan, but Chastain wound up 24th and Bell took 26th.
RELATED: Weekend schedule | At-track photos: Richmond
Bell had made a blocking maneuver to stem the advances of Chastain’s No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet in Michigan’s sweeping fourth turn. The two collided and Bell’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota caught the worst of the damage with the outside retaining wall. Bell owned up to the initial contact, but noted Chastain’s reputation for hard-nosed racing that figured into his on-track tactics.
“I mean, made a mistake and misjudged on being clear and not being clear,” Bell said. “But with that being said, I’ve been put in that exact same position on the flip side, probably 30, 40, maybe 50 times this year and, you know, I’ve lifted. So I made a mistake, but he had an option to lift and cut us both a break, and he didn’t and we wrecked.”
Chastain had made a more recent pit stop, and Bell said he was aware that his rival was racing with fresher tires. Even with that understanding, Bell admitted he “was trying to make his life harder” and that Chastain’s past factored in.
“Absolutely,” Bell said. “This sport is a game of respect, and I try and race people how they race me.”
Chastain took that in self-deprecating stride.
“It looked like IN was driving his car. Blocking all over the place,” Chastain said with a grin. “Yeah, I think he just made one too many blocks, and I was to his right-rear.”
The damage was one thing, but the ensuing caution period also turned the tide for Chastain and teammate Daniel Suárez.
“I mean, honestly, if I just would have lifted, right, we would have been better for me and Daniel, and Christopher, right?” Chastain said. “There’s really no circumstance where we need a caution right there, so when he gave me the option of lift or crash, I should have lifted. I just thought I had a lane to his right. I should have just pushed him instead of trying to get to his right-rear.”
Should the scenario present itself again, Bell said he would weigh the circumstances.
“I think it depends on the situation,” Bell said. “And at that moment, we were racing for the win, and I felt like it was going to help my case to win to slow him up. And you know, if we’re racing in the playoffs, and I have to be more mindful of my points position, obviously, my thoughts are different. But in that situation, it was essentially win or bust, and I thought that was going to help me win the race.”