Interview

TJ BELL: “One of the Best Opportunities I’ve Had”

Throughout his career, TJ Bell has gotten to partake in some exciting events behind the wheel in a variety of forms of motorsports. Now going into the 2017 season, he is set to embark on a partial Camping World Truck Series schedule with a brand new team, Niece Motorsports.

“I’m excited,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “It’s a new team, but some people that I’ve worked with in the past and we’ve got some good equipment. It’s one of the best opportunities that I’ve had in the Camping World Truck Series.”

Owned by Al Niece, the team is set to run 12-15 races this season, with plans to go full-time in 2018. The team currently plans to run Daytona, followed by Atlanta, Martinsville, Kansas, Charlotte, and Texas – with the rest of the schedule to be set in the coming weeks.

For Bell, the opportunity to return to Daytona is one he isn’t taking for granted as he hasn’t run at the 2.5-mile since 2011. He finished 11th in 2009 driving for Red Horse Racing, before finishing 31st in 2011 for Mark Beaver.

“It’s always the best to kick it off at Daytona,” he said. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to run Daytona. I’ve always started a few races after Daytona. It’s always great to start at Daytona right at the start of the year. It shows all the guys in the shop through the week, and in practice – and then in the race, the driver comes into play, but it shows the dedication of everyone on the team.”

Knowing the draft could give them a chance to run up front and capitalize also adds to the excitement for the Nevada native. However, before they’re able to do that, they will have to qualify – which isn’t certain as they don’t have points to fall back on.

“The biggest pressure of us to make the race on time,” he said. “We don’t have any points, and the weather staying nice for us to give us the chance. The biggest pressure is to make the race, and then there’s excitement in being able to run up front as a smaller team.”

Beyond Daytona, the excitement for Bell extends into the rest of the year as he’s excited about all the races he will be able to run, though looks forward to the “smaller high banks like Dover, Bristol – some of the tracks where the drivers comes into play more than the equipment.” However, with those races in mind, Bell isn’t setting any goals or expectations for the team – as long as they have fun.

“A lot of people in big teams and I’ve driven for some big teams, and a lot of people in this sport have forgot racing is fun, and that’s why we started,” he said. “So I think the main thing is going out and having fun, and then the results will come after that.”

With opportunity up in the air, though, those results could bring a dream moment, equal to memorable moments in his career like making his Cup debut at the Southern 500, and partaking in the 24 hours of LeMan.

“It’s been probably the coolest thing that I’ve done,” he said. “We didn’t finish the race, but the whole month leading up to it – driving around in a 1952 Bentley, and everything else like that – it was amazing.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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