The NASCAR silly season is beginning to take shape as one more piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.
Earlier this season, the Monster Energy Cup Series team Leavine Family Racing announced that their driver Matt DiBenedetto would not be returning to the team next season. At the time LFR had no further announcement other than to say that they were looking to fill the seat with a new and younger driver.
On September 24, Leavine Family Racing announced that they have chosen the driver for their number 95 car next season; Xfinity Series phenom Christopher Bell.
Bell burst onto the NASCAR circuit three years ago when he took the Gander Outdoors Truck Series by storm winning five races and the Truck Series Championship in his rookie season.
For the past two years, Bell has driven the number 20 car in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. Along with winning the Rookie of the Year award, Bell won seven races in 2018 and has won another seven races so far in the 2019 season and is one of the 12 playoffs drivers vying for the Xfinity Series Championship.
Bell’s current crew chief Jason Ratcliff will be making the move to Leavine Family Racing with Bell. Often sponsors make the move with drivers when they change teams and such is the case with Christopher Bell and his current sponsors Rheem and Procure who will make the move to Leavine Family Racing as sponsors for the number 95 car.
Speaking on his new acquisition, Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine said, it’s kind of like Christmas early; “ adding that everyone in the shop is excited about the possibilities.
There has been a great deal of speculation about when Bell would make the move to the Monster Cup Energy Series and whose team he would be with.
Christopher Bell spoke on the move to Monster Cup saying, “I’m really, really excited about making the next step here at LFR and hoping we can get kicked off on the right foot. I think having Jason along beside me … it’s going to be a really big advantage. He’s a great crew chief. He’s got a lot of experience with veteran drivers and we got to start our communication process in the Xfinity Series together, so there’s nobody else I’d rather go with than him.’’
Noting that there are differences in the Xfinity Series and Monster Energy Cup Series cars, Bell said, “I think a lot of it will have to do with how well I adopt to the rules package in the Cup Series. The Xfinity cars, for whatever reason, fit me pretty well, so there wasn’t that much of a learning curve. But the Cup Series cars right now are drastically different than the Xfinity Series cars, so I think a lot of it will depend on how quickly I can pick that up.’’
Current crew chief of the number 95 car Mike Wheeler will remain with Leavin Family Racing as serve as the team’s competition director.
In the wake of Wood Brothers Racing driver Paul Menard’s retirement, current LFR driver Matt DiBenedetto will become the new driver of the Wood Brothers number 21 car.