T.J. Bell Has First-Career ARCA Win Ripped From His Grasp at MIS Last-Lap Incident While Leading Ends Chances for Young Driver in ESR Debut DENVER, NC (August 19, 2006) -- T.J. Bell knew that he could get the job done. The number-20 team for...
T.J. Bell Has First-Career ARCA Win Ripped From His Grasp at MIS
Last-Lap Incident While Leading Ends Chances for Young Driver in ESR Debut
DENVER, NC (August 19, 2006) -- T.J. Bell knew that he could get the job done. The number-20 team for Eddie Sharp Racing knew that it was strong enough to win races in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, as well. That's why it was a perfect match for Bell to get into the ESR number-20 at Michigan International Speedway for Friday's Hantz Group 200. Bell and the team weren't going to be denied.
They were in perfect position to score the win in their first race together in 2006 on the final lap. Just one lap before, Bell was running second when the leader slowed. Bell looked to be on his way to his first-career ARCA win. Unfortunately, contact from another competitor ended those hopes.
On lap 99 of the 100-lap Hantz Group 200 at MIS, Bell found himself challenged for the win by Frank Kimmel. The two cars made contact. The yellow flag came out and Bell was left with some left-front fender damage. He was able to continue on and restart second, but the damage was already done. That damage proved to be the end of the road for Bell as on the final one-lap sprint to the checkered flag, a flat tire slowed his progress in the final corners.
With a car that could have, and perhaps should have, won the race, Bell was left disappointed by not being able to bring home the win in the Hantz Group 200 not only for himself, but also for the entire Eddie Sharp Racing team.
"This number-20 Dodge group with Eddie Sharp Racing and my crew chief Jeff McClure, we all came here to win this race and in all of our eyes we did win the race," said Bell. "Frank was driving it in there going for the win, but I guess he wasn't looking at the big picture. He just didn't look at points and unfortunately it cost us the hardware.
"We won this race; we just didn't take home the trophy. That kind of stuff doesn't matter to a lot of people, I guess, but it matters to us. In the end I'm just really happy that I could come in here and do well for all of the guys on this team that work so hard in the shop day in and day out. I wanted to let them know that what they do everyday is appreciated and it can pay off. They had been down in the dumps after some disappointing runs in the past and I was down about not being in a racecar for a while, and I know this pumped everyone up being able to get out there and run up front."
Bell came into Michigan with just one thing on his mind -- victory. Even though he qualified 22nd, he and the ESR team were confident they had a car that was going to be stout in Friday's race. That was nearly deflated early in the race, however. A miscue fueling Bell's number-20 on the first pit stop of the day cost Bell some valuable track position. Alas, he had a good car and was determined to make his way back up to the front.
"We started 22nd and we worked our way up pretty steadily in the first part of the race. I think we were in the top 10 and the car was just awesome. It seemed like I just stole everyone's lunch in turns three and four. We were unbelievable through there. We came in for that first pit stop and made some adjustments, but for some reason the car didn't get full of gas. Unfortunately we had to come back in and do it again. That put us towards the back of the field, but I knew that we had a good car that was capable of coming back up through the pack again. I don't think I've passed as many racecars as I did today in my whole life and not go home with the hardware.
"The car just got better and better as the race went on after that stop though and we had a good shot to win this race. We came to win and I feel like we won. I'd rather go home with a torn up racecar knowing that we did everything we could to try to win the race rather than finish second."
With the effort that Bell and his team put forth, team owner Eddie Sharp was proud to see the number-20 running back up front with such a young talent behind the wheel.
"One thing about T.J. is that he races clean," said Sharp. "I just don't think he got the same treatment. The kid is phenomenal. He deserves to be out here. It's a pleasure to have him in our racecar and I was so proud to see him running up front with a realistic shot at the win. I'm proud of him and the entire team for their hard work in putting the number-20 car in position to win this race."