The series of 12 Questions interviews continues this week with Christopher Bell, the Chili Bowl champion, Camping World Truck Series champion and current Xfinity Series driver for Joe Gibbs Racing. This interview was recorded as a podcast but is also transcribed for those who would rather read.
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
I haven’t dreamed about racing in a while. As a kid, I used to always have nightmares that I wouldn’t be ready in time. I don’t know why, but I would always have nightmares that I would miss my heat race at the Chili Bowl or something. Like I wasn’t dressed in time and the next thing you know, your heat race or the feature’s pushing off and you’re trying to get in your car. I would have those dreams quite frequently whenever I was a kid. Recently, I haven’t dreamed too much about racing.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
If you intentionally wreck someone, then there’s no need to apologize. If it’s an accident and you really didn’t mean to do it, I think you need to make that effort to connect with him. Generally, if I accidentally get into someone, I guess I don’t go immediately because everybody’s still wound up from the race. But within a couple hours, I’ll reach out and try to talk to him.
Like via text?
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
Honestly, this is gonna sound weird, but growing up and following (Kyle) Larson’s footsteps, the biggest compliment that people have given me is when they compare me to Larson, because he’s the greatest race car driver I’ve seen. And so for people to have me and him in the same conversation, it’s pretty cool.
4. NASCAR comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?
I don’t know. I don’t really follow too much of the celebrity scene I guess, but recently, I just watched Ride Along and get a good laugh out of Kevin Hart, so that’d be kind of cool.
He’d be fun to hang out with at the track.
Yeah. He’d make you laugh, anyway.
5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, NASCAR offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?
No. I live on meat, so there’s no way.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished.
I’ll be good at this.
You have good memory?
Then I probably didn’t go hard enough because I was like, “There’s not enough NASCAR races to where you would probably remember most of the NASCAR races.”
If you picked a dirt race in 2013, I’d tell you where I finished.
Well let’s see. Where did you finish in the 2014 Belleville Nationals feature?
Second. No, third. No, sorry, fourth. I think it was, Rico (Abreu) won, I finished fourth.
You did finish fourth.
Sorry, it was ’15 when I finished second to (Bryan) Clauson.
How do you have such a good memory for a race? I can’t even remember races from this year.
I don’t know, man. That’s just something that I’ve always had. For the most part, you can tell me any race and I’ll be able to tell you where I finished and pretty much how the race went. I remember at Belleville in 2014, the dash is what lines you up in the feature, and I think me and Rico were running first and second in the dash and I thought I had a flat tire, so I pulled in. So I finished last in the dash which was sixth or eighth, and I didn’t have a flat, so I felt really dumb and my confidence was beat down. Keith (Kunz) the car owner was mad at me because I pulled in and didn’t have anything wrong with the car. And then I started in the back, and couldn’t make our way up through there.
Wow. But you got to fourth.
Yeah, I did get to fourth, so that was OK.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
He’s got a long track record.
When I was a kid, I used to love listening to Eminem and I could actually pretty much rap or sing most of his songs word for word.
Even now if it’s on the radio?
I lose some parts of it, but yeah, if the right song comes on.
8. Who has the most punchable face in NASCAR?
Oh man. (Pauses) The driver in the number 60 car has wrecked me a couple of times.
They have rotating drivers.
Yeah, I think we know which one it is.
9. NASCAR enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your crew chief, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.
Taylor Swift, motorhome driver.
Just to be fun to hang out with?
Yeah, she looks good, too. So we’ve got Tom Hanks and LeBron for spotter and crew chief? I guess I’d have to put LeBron on the spotter stand and that leaves Tom on the pit box.
You feel like Tom’s leadership is gonna help steer your team in the right direction there?
Yeah, I don’t see LeBron being a crew chief.
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
That’s (public relations representative) Donald (Edwards’) job, man. He’s always scoping it out for me. Sometimes they’re tough to come by. There’s a lot of these racetracks that we go to and it sucks. Like, that’s a problem. It shouldn’t be a problem. Port-o-pissers on pit road is a must-have. You’ve gotta have them.
You gotta wait in line sometimes?
Yeah. I’m trying to think…where did we go that’s bad recently? Vegas. We had like five or six drivers lined up in Vegas waiting to go into the port-a-potty. It’s an issue. It’s a real issue.
11. NASCAR misses the highlight reel value brought by Carl Edwards’ backflips and decides a replacement is needed. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?
I think they just need to give Daniel Hemric a different tapered spacer and it’d come back. (Smiles) No, Daniel has been doing it ever since I can remember, he just hasn’t had the opportunity to win in NASCAR. So there’s a guy out there that will do it if he ever wins, and he will win at some point. That’s not for me.
He says he can do it standing flat-footed on the ground. Do you think that’s true?
I’ve seen him do it, so yeah.
12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Kyle Larson. His question was, “What year will you win your first World of Outlaws championship?”
That’s a great question. So I’m in Xfinity now. The hard part is you don’t know how long your NASCAR career’s gonna last. And then after you’re done with your NASCAR career, do you have the opportunity to go Outlaw racing? But that’s a dream of mine.
I’m 23 now. I would say 50 is too old to win an Outlaw championship. So, maybe, hopefully by 20 years from now…that would be ’38, right? 2038? Hopefully by 2038 I’m an Outlaw champion.
So you have a long enough NASCAR career, but you don’t want to get too old to where you’re not competitive.
You have to find the right window there. I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with, so do you have a question I can ask another driver in general?
I guess just, “What drives you? Why do you go race?”