The NOCO 400 will be held Sunday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia as part of the NASCAR Cup Series. It will be broadcast on FS1.
WATCH LIVE FOR FREE: Fubo.tv (free trial); DirecTV Stream (free trial); Hulu + Live TV (free trial).
The NOCO 400 is the ninth race of the NASCAR Cup Series and is contested over 400 laps of a 0.526-mile paperclip-shaped short course.
What: NOCO 400
If: Sunday, April 16, 2023
Time: 3 p.m. East.
Where: Martinsville Speedway, Ridgeway, Virginia (65,000)
live streams: Fubo.tv (FREE trial version); DirecTV Stream (FREE Trial); Hulu + Live TV (FREE Trial).
Last week Christopher Bell won the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Here’s a look at his near-historic NASCAR start at this weekend’s race from the Associated Press:
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) Christopher Bell, fresh from his first win of the season at the Bristol Dirt, learned he was running near historic pace in NASCAR.
His five career wins from 116 starts is the second most among active drivers, with only NASCAR Champion Brad Keselowski winning more in the Cup Series so early in his career.
“That’s pretty cool,” said 28-year-old Bell, who is driving for powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing in his third full season.
“But I try not to look at the stats and focus on the task at hand,” Bell said on Sunday night after leading the final 100 laps to victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. “That’s very rewarding to hear and hopefully I’m not done here.”
Oh, Bell isn’t done yet, and he’s rising as a cornerstone driver at JGR, whose racers include NASCAR Champion Martin Truex Jr. and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.
Bell’s four wins over the past two seasons are Gibbs’ most. Hamlin has won twice in that span while Truex Jr., the 2017 series champion, was winless.
Kyle Busch, the longtime heart of JGR who joined Richard Childress Racing last offseason, won once in 2022. His successor, Joe Gibbs grandson Ty Gibbs, is winless this season.
It is evident that the Gibbs organization knows Bell’s advantages. They agreed a long-term deal last year to keep Bell racing the No. 20, with Joe Gibbs spearheading Bell’s easy-going, professional manner with sponsors.
“We think he’s a young man who’s going to be a star,” said Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls as Washington coach and five NASCAR championships in two sports during his career.
The Gibbs crew almost had another last season when Bell won two playoff races (Charlotte’s Roval and Martinsville) and fought for a title in the last four. He was third in the points classification.
Bell is back in the playoffs after successfully navigating the Bristol dirt. He ended up holding off his dirt ace Tyler Reddick as a final lap booking with Bell in the lead gave him the win.
“Well, he’s been so close so many times,” said Heather Gibbs, who was married to the late Coy Gibbs, Ty’s mother and part of JGR’s ownership group. “We are really happy about the win. It means so much to our family just to be able to come here.”
And Bell could expect more this season, a lot more.
He becomes a short distance champion and finished fourth at Richmond before winning Bristol. Now this week’s Cup Series heads to Martinsville, where Bell won last time out.
“We knew this was going to be a good circuit,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to capitalize on that.”
Bell’s rise helps all JGR racers. There were three in the Bristol top 10 (Truex was seventh and Gibbs tenth) and three in the playoff lineup after about a third of the season was completed.
Bell took the points lead with Sunday’s win, winning his third straight playoff trip since joining JGR. Truex is seventh in points and Hamlin is 12th with plenty of races left to make a difference.
Toyota machines have lagged behind Chevrolet drivers who have won five times this year. Bell believes the gap is closing and the hunt begins.
“There was no doubt that we had their backs,” Bell said. “But we’re on a really good track for our cars.”
Testing will begin in two weeks at Talladega, when Gibbs’ rider will look to build muscle on the longer distances.
“With that in mind, we know there’s room for improvement,” Bell continued, “and hopefully that will come sooner rather than later.”
Count on Bell’s performance sooner.
“If we as a team are able to give him the balance he needs,” said Bell’s crew chief Adam Stevens, “with the gear we produce at Joe Gibbs Racing, he’ll get us through (up) the front, and he proved that.”