Throughout much of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season Rob Fuller hopes to have a special guest with him. Fuller and his sponsor, 15-40 Connection, are trying to do as much as possible to try to raise awareness for early cancer detection.
For the Battle at the Beach at Daytona International Speedway, Joshua Bell's name will be on the car. Bell, 24, from Arlington, Mass was diagnosed with Stage II leukemia when he was 22 years old. He said on 15-40 Connection's website that he felt very fatigued and felt pain in his back, but didn't think anything of it for quite awhile. Bell said he was fortunate to be diagnosed when he was because things could have turned out much differently for him if he waited any longer.
He joined Fuller's team at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September and had an eye-opening experience.
"It was such a cool opportunity," said Bell. "For me it was the size of the cars. I'm a little claustrophobic from time-to-time and standing next to the car I was thinking, 'They actually climb in there?'"
"It was overwhelming to them (Bell and his family)," said Fuller. "They didn't realize how much went into it. How much work was involved and how many days we were there, and the event itself with the media coverage. So it's pretty cool."
Fuller said the plan is to have a different cancer survivor at each televised race and have them be an honorary member of the team.
The team wanted to have Bell with them in Daytona, but Bell said he recently just went through more treatment and cannot afford to take the extra sick days from work. Bell has been fighting his cancer on and off since he was diagnosed.
But Bell is staying upbeat. You can talk to him for just a few minutes and you will immediately hear a very positive attitude.
"I really believe that a positive output means a positive input," said Bell. "I actually have had a lot of family members who have had cancer. So I've learned how I need to be as far as positivity."
Racing with 15-40 Connection as a sponsor is something is very important to Fuller as he has also been affected by cancer. He lost an uncle to cancer back in 1992 and said it was quite the shock because his uncle was just 39 years old.
"He waited a long time," said Fuller, "and by the time he found out, he had stage four cancer. He only lived for six-to-12 months after the diagnosis.
"It makes me think of that and it makes me think of everybody else that is going through similar things," said Fuller.
Fuller said that racing for 15-40 Connection gives him a different purpose when he's at the race track than many other drivers and teams have.
"Usually when you're racing in NASCAR you're trying to promote a brand," said Fuller. "You're trying to sell hamburgers or sell soda. We are not really trying to sell anything.
"We just want to get their stories told and get their stories out there. We just want to raise awareness."