It took a long time in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Road America for Bell to gain a position on the track, in part because of a penalty he received for crossing too many pits while he had stopped cautiously between steps 1 and 2.

But on lap 59 of 62, Bell had made his way to second and in the closing laps posted lap times comparable to race winner Chase Elliott.

The deficit, however, was too large to be made up by then.

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“I think we were close, closer than anyone (Elliott). It was good. At the end of the race, everyone was telling me that I was equaling, if not a little better, the lap times, ”said Bell, who finished 5.7 seconds behind Elliott.

“I never had a track position to start there with him and see what we had against the whole race. I’m sure he was saving a little (fuel) to make sure there was a restart there or something, but it was a lot of fun.

Bell’s second place was his first top five since April in Richmond, Va., And only third of the season, including his February victory at the Daytona Road Course, which was also his first series victory.

In his 10 races to Sunday, Bell was better than 14th only once – a ninth at the Superspeedway in Nashville (Tenn.).

“The past two months have been tough, but we feel like we’re getting back on track. There’s no reason we can’t run past every week, ”said Bell, 26.

“Last week at Pocono we had a car capable of finishing in the top five. It didn’t happen. Other than that, in Nashville it was fine. Other than that, I don’t know, we just weren’t very fast.

“Here, over the past few weeks, I have been very proud of the progress we have made. Excited for the future. I know there is more to come.

All four road races so far this season have been won by drivers Joe Gibbs Racing (one) or Hendrick (three).

“I didn’t expect my first victory to come on a road circuit, that’s for sure. Last year in the Cup Series, the road races were probably my best races in terms of speed, ”said Bell.

“I feel like we’ve taken some really good Camrys to the road circuits and it’s definitely a good package for JGR right now. “

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