No. 9 Team Season Outlook: Bell Looks to Recapture No. 9 Team Dominance in First Season with Jones

Ron Lemasters | 2/15/2024

Brandon Jones Menards News Phillip Bell

Phillip Bell has seen the No. 9 team at JRM dominate the NASCAR Xfinity Series to the tune of three championships since 2014. In 2024, Bell will lead driver Brandon Jones with the idea of making it four NASCAR Xfinity Series titles in 10 seasons.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 15, 2024) – Phillip Bell has seen the No. 9 team at JR Motorsports dominate the NASCAR Xfinity Series as part of the legacy that includes three series championships since 2014, serving as the lead engineer under both Dave Elenz and Luke Lambert.

In 2024, the Georgia native will step up to the crew-chief level for driver Brandon Jones with the idea of making it four NASCAR Xfinity Series titles in 10 seasons.

While it's the next logical step in his career progression, it is a new role, and it’s one that Bell is eager to begin. Of course, the lineage he has at JRM and with the No. 9 car makes that a bit easier.

“Both (former crew chiefs) Dave Elenz and Luke Lambert are main influences for me, as well as Marcus Richmond,” Bell said. “I learned a lot from working with them. A lot of that, the system and process we built, won’t change. You try to update and build on it, but it doesn’t change.”

First under Elenz and in 2022 under Lambert, Bell saw first-hand how the No. 9 team works, and was a big part of the eight-win season in which the team fell just short of the championship. It’s a heady feeling to be the crew chief for 2024.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed to have good crew chiefs who let me have as much slack as I wanted to, so it’s not really daunting, it’s exciting. It’s new coming in and focusing on managing people and personalities and trying to maximize that too.”

The biggest part of that, he said, is building his rapport with Jones, a veteran driver in his second year with JRM.

“That’s been a lot of our focus, a lot of what Brandon and I have talked about is, you have to go into this with the mentality that you’re the best driver, the best race team there,” Bell said. “Confidence has to be high. That’s the way we’re rolling and the only way I know. We’re going to work and go through the details everywhere and be overprepared to have that confidence.”

Earlier this year, Bell and Jones returned to their Georgia roots by entering a Super Late Model race in their home state. The goal wasn’t to win it, though that was surely a part of it. The goal was to learn how each communicates. Bell said it was a good start.

“I feel like it’s good for a basis of communication,” he said. “Brandon’s been very open about what he needs communication-wise and it’s going great. I’ve learned a lot about how he gives information and how he wants to receive it, so we have a good basis for that.” 

As for philosophy, Bell is all about the next race up.

“It’s about Daytona,” he said. “I want to win it because it’s the next race. I want to win every one of them equally. Every win is great, but one race at a time. We’ll put a winning effort in every time and learn from it.”

His team features a trio of veteran mechanics in car chief Anthony Alonzo, Drew Beeson (front-end) and Josh Horton (underneath) as well as a pair of engineers in Tyler Trebilcock and Cale Lindley who are new for 2024.

“Our mechanics have all been here for a number of years and have a lot of experience,” Bell said. “That’s nice because we have younger engineers. That’s good. I’m very happy with them and their work ethic is very strong. They’re going to pick it up fast.”

Bell said the experience of Alonzo, Beeson and Horton is a good mix for Trebilcock and Lindley in that Bell himself can concentrate more on the engineering side and building confidence.

“It’s a good situation, because we can lean on the more experienced mechanics to take a little of the load off and focus on getting the engineering side where it needs to be. I’ve had a lot of fun teaching the way we do the engineering process here.”

The group is working hard, too, with the season opener upon them.

“The work ethic is great,” Bell said. “Everyone wants to dig in, focus on the details. I love the work ethic.”

While he’s never been a crew chief at the NXS level, Bell has had excellent mentors in Elenz and Lambert, and the fact that fellow crew chiefs Jim Pohlman and Mardy Lindley are veterans has been a benefit as well, he said.

“I lean on the other crew chiefs hard,” Bell said. “I’ve always been a person who is perfectly fine asking questions. I’ve leaned on Mardy and Jim a lot and they’ve been very open, very helpful. I still reach out to Dave and Luke and Marcus with questions and getting the most data points to build my own notebook.”

That goes toward building on the legacy Bell helped create in his previous stint at JRM.

“I call that the No. 9 team mentality,” he said. “We have to keep it that way. We want to work harder than anyone else, want to have more fun than anyone else and be more prepared than anyone else at the track.”

There’s no secret to how Bell wants to start the season at Daytona.

“I feel good where we’re at in regards to the schedule,” he said. “On the No. 9 car, we’ve always been very aggressive, strategy-wise, on the superspeedways and that’s not going to change. We’re going to be aggressive and race hard, no riding around dodging would-be wrecks. We’re going to try to be at the front the whole time.”

That should help Bell’s stated goals for 2024.

“A great season would be starting off strong, having good communication and consistently making progress,” he said “It’s a long year. I want to grow throughout the season. That’s the main thing.”

The 33-race schedule features a wide variety of tracks and Bell is cognizant of the need to be good at all of them. But it’s also a countdown, and his philosophy is to take them one at a time.

“The way I’ve always worked is, the most important thing is the next race,” he said. “I want to carry that philosophy but I also want to have in the back of our mind the points situation. If you average out the last four years, to get to the Championship 4 without winning a race, you have to average 38-40 points a race. I want to keep that in mind, but we’re still going to race hard.

“If you have a bad day, something is bound to happen, but if you run fifth in both stages, that’s 10 points. You have a bad pit stop or something happens, you don’t have to throw the kitchen sink at it to get back to fifth. You don’t want to put yourself in a bad position and have a mistake that kills your day. You have to know where good days and bad days are.”

Road courses are a part of life in the NXS, and the team will have some extra work on the twisty bits this year, Bell said.

“I feel really good about road courses, and we’re going to be running ARCA races or companion races at Portland, Sonoma and Watkins Glen so we’ll have a lot of reps there. I feel really good about it. Road courses are a big part of our schedule now and you have to be good at them.”

As for rules changes, Bell has a handle on what to expect.

“They (NASCAR) changed the back glass on our cars for this year, which should put a rear downforce percentage to it,” he said. “It’s more flow to the cockpit, not as big a change as we had last year.”

The change to smaller, nine-gallon fuel cans is different, but equally important.

“It’s going to be more two-can stops, not a ton of three-can stops, full pulls,” Bell said. “You’re already mindful of fuel, but you’ll have to put more of an emphasis on it this year.”

When the season starts, Bell will be back on the pit box but one seat to the left from where he’s used to sitting. That he has the legacy of the No. 9 team to live up to will provide all the motivation he and his team will need in chasing a championship.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • April 20 04:00 PM ET
    Ag-Pro 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • April 27 01:30 PM ET
    A-GAME 200Dover International Speedway
  • May 11 01:30 PM ET
    NXS Spring Race at DarlingtonDarlington Raceway
  • May 25 01:00 PM ET
    NXS Spring Race at CharlotteCharlotte Motor Speedway
  • June 1 04:30 PM ET
    Pacific Office Automation 147Portland International Raceway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Dead On Tools 250

Martinsville Speedway | 10/28/2023
Results are not available.