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Christopher Bell Vaults to Pole at Kansas; Eighth Pole of 2023 Season

The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD scored his fourth pole in the last nine races Saturday at Kansas Speedway.


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Could Christopher Bell be the new 'Rocket Man' in the NASCAR Cup Series? After scoring his fourth pole in his last eight starts, it's a very valid question.

Bell, one of the 16 drivers vying for the NASCAR Cup Series championship, will begin the second race of the 2023 Playoffs -- the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway -- from the pole. Bell turned a lap time of 29.954 sec. (180.276 mph). Bell was the only driver to turn a lap under 30 seconds, and above 180 miles per hour on the day.

RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 Starting Lineup

The lap was incredible, and Bell doesn't believe he left anything on the table.

"I love this place. That was a lot of fun," Bell said of his qualifying run. "Qualifying here is very intense. That's certainly all we had."

Bell has now swept pole positions in the opening two rounds of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but after scoring the pole at Darlington a week ago, Bell found trouble in the Cook Out Southern 500 and finished 23rd. Bell was one of many Playoff contenders who got their championship bid off to a rocky start at Darlington. The 28-year-old racer says he is ready to put a full race together Sunday at the 1.5-mile track in Kansas City.

"I felt really good in practice today. Race trim is what it's all about," Bell explained. "This is -- week after week we keep coming to the racetrack with cars that are capable of racing for wins. I'm ready to put it all together."

While he didn't win the pole, Kyle Larson will start alongside Bell on the front row, as he turned a lap that was just 0.075 sec. shy of Bell's pole-winning pace. Larson knows he missed a couple of spots on his qualifying lap, which could have potentially unlocked the pole for him.

"I'm sure there's always stuff you can do. I just need to look at the data first to see where he was faster," Larson stated. "[I] Felt like I got a little bit tight getting into [turn] 1, and I was just a little late back to wide open. In [turns] 3 and 4 I thought I did most of the first half of the corner good, then I got a little bit tight late exit and just had to shy away from full throttle."

While Larson came up just shy of his third pole of the 2023 season, he knows he has a car that can contend for the victory on Sunday.

"But to be on the front row for tomorrow feels good. Congrats to Christopher and their team. The Gibbs cars are always really good here. I know all six Toyotas will be tough to beat, but I know our Chevrolet is really fast," Larson said with confidence.

Larson also has the ability to be a little more aggressive than usual in Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas, as he scored the win last weekend at Darlington Raceway. The win at Darlington automatically advanced Larson to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

In all, eight Playoff drivers will start from inside the top-10.

In addition to Bell and Larson, Martin Truex Jr. (third), Tyler Reddick (fifth), Ross Chastain (sixth), Michael McDowell (seventh), William Byron (ninth), and Bubba Wallace (10th) are the other Playoff contenders who will start from the top-10 on Sunday.

Taking things a step further, 15 of the 16 Playoff contenders will begin Sunday's race from inside the top 20. The lone championship contender starting from outside the top 20 will be Kyle Busch, who found trouble in practice and was unable to make a qualifying lap. Busch will start from the 35th starting position.

Photo Credit: David Rosenblum, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

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