NASCAR has had a very unpredictable season due to the NextGen debut and this was on full display when the non-playoff drivers swept the entire Round of 16, which is not done in this current format.
However, a new favorite emerged after the first three races of the NASCAR Qualifiers.
Christopher Bell wins NASCAR favorite
Christopher Bell may not have been the name people were expecting when opening this article, but it’s the right engine. While Bale may only score one victory this season, there are more compelling reasons.
Over the first three races of qualifying, Bale was the driver with three runs in the top five, most laps led by a qualifying driver, best middle finish, and most points by an appropriate margin.
The 27-year-old has a 25-point lead over William Byron as the highest-earning driver in qualifying. If it’s the previous 10-race Chase format that Jimmy Johnson tore down, Bale will still lead in points after Bristol Motor Speedway.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if people were paying attention to the 2022 season in general. It was a tough start to the season for the 20th team which made the turnaround even more impressive.
Bale is tied for third in the top five and has the second most top 10 finalist. Additionally, he currently ranks as the second best middle finisher behind Chase Elliott, who has been struggling to find the pace.
If Elliott can’t find the pace he found over the summer, that makes Bale the favorite for the championship. Because of qualifying, the driver of car number 9 will have many opportunities to prove himself again with his cut-off points.
It looks like both drivers could be well placed to enter Phoenix Raceway with a shot in the championship. Bale’s upcoming win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway shows he’ll have plenty of speed to compete if he makes it.
Joe Gibbs Racing sees a transformation among NASCAR’s top drivers
Joe Gibbs Racing has seen a huge turnaround in its top drivers over the past few seasons. However, the 2022 NASCAR season is the first time it’s become so clear what’s going on.
Martin Truex Jr. didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014 season, but that wasn’t due to the number of winners. Truex only boasts four places out of the top five of the season, which is not normal for him.
Kyle Bush’s championship hopes had already ended after his surprise exit from the round of 16. Admittedly, this was due to an engine failure that had nothing to do with Bosch’s ability to drive.
However, Busch is on track for his worst season since 2014, exactly the same as Truex’s. Both drivers didn’t see much success for various reasons, such as Busch’s contract negotiations.
The 37-year-old driver will Move to car number 8 of Richard Childress Racing After the 2022 NASCAR season where his tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota Racing will come to an abrupt end.
Ty Gibbs is expected to replace Bosch in the No. 18 car next season. But Gibbs struggled out of the race at the Michigan International Speedway, which is to be expected for someone in his shoes.
The 19-year-old will have the sixth worst full-time driver’s finish behind Ty Dillon in much better gear. Gibbs will end up winning races at the top NASCAR level one day, but it will take some time.
Denny Hamlin is the other driver with Joe Gibbs Racing and his season has been up and down as well. Hamlin has only 10 of the top 10 and is on track to reach his worst finishing position in a season since 2013.
The 41-year-old has had some difficulties, but has been upending it recently with three straight top-ten finishes, including two finishes in second.
All of this brings us to Bale who is in full swing for his best 20th car finish since the 2014 season with Matt Kenseth. There is a clear change in guard Joe Gibbs Racing.
Bell represents the future of the organization and will end up being its number one driver for years to come. He might have been flying under the radar, but Toyota Racing has finally evolved and stuck to a championship-winning driver.