Niece Motorsports have been known as a squad with hungry drivers competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Drivers who’ve competed for them include the likes of Ross Chastain, who made the Championship 4 in 2019, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.
Starting in 2022, it’ll be a young man’s squad with three confirmed drivers being born in the New Millennium. The confirmed trio will consist of the now-sophomore Carson Hocevar, Lawless Alan and our subject matter, Dean Thompson.
The 20-year-old was one of very few competitors doing double duty at Phoenix Raceway as he got an early taste of driving for his new home Friday. Piloting the No. 44 Thompson Pipe Group Chevrolet Silverado, Thompson had a quiet night as he finished 21st, one lap behind race winner Chandler Smith.
Now, the mindset focuses on wrapping up his ARCA Menards Series campaign for the collaborate effort of High Point Racing and Sunrise Ford. His 2021 campaign had its ups and downs, including missing Irwindale due to testing positive for COVID-19 which dashed his title aspirations.
Although he won’t be among the seven title contenders in the Arizona Lottery 100, Thompson was able to win a championship elsewhere. As ARCA West competed at Portland International Raceway in September, the Anaheim, California native competed at Irwindale Speedway. It was a necessary risk, but Thompson got the job done as he won the track championship for the second straight year.
I spoke with Thompson prior to Truck Series qualifying and the race itself regarding his 2021 season and beyond. Without further ado, here’s the latest installment of “Up to Speed.”
Luis Torres: Now that you’ve announced your 2022 plans with Niece Motorsports, how excited are you competing at Phoenix?
Dean Thompson: I’m super excited to do this. Racing at Phoenix is a big blessing and a privileges. Just super happy to be here and doing a doubleheader will be the first of many.
Torres: In the past, Niece has brought in veteran and young guys. Now, next year, it’s all young guys like Lawless and Hocevar. How great is it to be a part of an organization that gave you an opportunity to compete across the country?
Thompson: I’m super excited for that. It’s a big blessing to be able to race cross country. When I was racing in ARCA West, we would be stuck out West. I’m glad to be able to do this with the Niece guys in the national series where we can go from West to East, from North to South. Race all over the place. It’s going to be cool to go from California all the way to New York (Watkins Glen). Everything in between.
Super blessed to do this. Especially with these fast guys and it’s super awesome. Practice was showing me how tight this field is and how competitive they are. It’ll be good to bounce off ideas with Carson because he has a year of experience. He’s going to know what to say and what to do, so I’m super excited.
Torres: You brought up different venues like Watkins Glen. Of course, the Truck Series are heading back to Sonoma for the first time in over 20 years. You and guys like Derek Kraus or even Ben Rhodes, who drove the Cup race back in June. …how neat is it going to a track that many drivers have not competed, but you have?
Thompson: That’s the track I’m looking forward to. I’m super excited to have practice next year. As a rookie, it’s going to be nice to get warmed up at the track. (Sonoma) is the track I wish we didn’t have practice because I have experience there, but I’ll take what I can get. I think we’ll be pretty fast than what people think.
Torres: The ARCA West finale is a big race where your teammates Trevor Huddleston and Jake Drew are in the hunt. Of course what happened put you out of the title picture, but what has been your main takeaway competing in this campaign out West?
Thompson: These West boys (and girls) are no joke. Front to back they fight for every inch. I think out of the three ARCA series right now, the West is the most competitive and best competition. Some big takeaways from this season are just the team building and being patient. There’s a lot of take and not a lot of give which is kind of frustrating, but you got to live with it and do what you can.
Just a lot of patience and teamwork. Working with the guys and teammates, and bounce off them to see what they’re going to do and maybe help them out in the race.
Torres: Back in September, I was at Portland shooting photos of the West race during INDYCAR weekend. You were at Irwindale going for that championship. How neat is it to win that championship the way you did?
Thompson: It was unfortunate that we missed Portland for sure. But it was a big tossup between me and my team to see if we were going to Portland or Irwindale. We ultimately decided with Irwindale because championships just don’t come by every now and then. You got to take every championship you can get.
That was pretty sweet and awesome to win the championship for us. Not just for me, but for all the guys. When I mean for us, I really mean all of High Point Racing. They’ve been so good to me these past few years and taking home another championship is a big blessing.
Torres: Big picture Saturday, you’ll already have experience with different conditions. Like the West having the combo race with National ARCA earlier in the year. Is there anything you can take from running different conditions, knowing the race is going to be hot in the afternoon?
Thompson: It’s going to drive a little different. The basis is going to be the same. The only difference is the PJ1. We hardly ever used it because it was rainy a little bit. It kind of ruined the PJ1. Plus, it never really came in. They put resin on, so we have to adapt to the resin. Now, just normal stuff. I went out there (in practice) and drove it the same as I did earlier this year with the ARCA car.
Torres: Out West, you have guys like Derek Thorn tearing it up in the region and on the national short track level. Who among the West Coast drivers people may not have heard of yet, but should keep an eye on aside from you of course?
Thompson: Bradley Erickson. Big shout out to him. We haven’t really talked much but I’ve been keeping an eye on that little kid. He’s been kicking butt and rising really fast. He’s been doing good at Madera. He went through Madera and I just watch him recently at Kern (County), saw him kicking butt. He’s a good hand and will be here someday. He’s very, very good. Just needs a good opportunity.
So, he’s a really good one. Obviously, Derek has been amazing. Jeremy Doss and Trevor (Huddleston), my teammate. But I’d say the one that not a lot of people know is Bradley. Put him on your map right now!
Torres: Normally when I do features, I focus on the music side of things. What’s your main go-to genre and your motivational music that keeps you going for race day?
Thompson: That’s a good question. So, coming into the track, I have a couple of different things. Coming to the track, I listen to country and get my juices flowing. Just relax and be easy into the track. Not too hyped up, but chilled out.
When it’s time to go, it depends on what car I’m driving. For the ARCA car, (when) Kobe Bryant played basketball, he would play the Halloween theme song in his headphones, and just sit there, listen to it, and have that killer instinct. So, I started doing that. It’s not really a song, but it’s kind of the theme song. If I don’t listen to that, I listen to a lot of rap. Just a lot of hyped up rap and EDM. All that kind of stuff, you know.
Torres: It just clicked on me. You have an amazing support system. You have your family and your girlfriend Sam. How great is to have incredible company with you at the races. Especially on a weekend like this?
Thompson: Oh yeah, having my family here is the best. They’re a big support system. Big motivation to keep going and push as hard as I can. Just for them to come all the way from Texas means a lot to me. They don’t have to be here. They don’t have to do this, but they do. My girlfriend is from Ohio, so for her come down here and do this with me is always a big blessing. It motivates me really well and makes me a lot happy.
Special thanks to Dean Thompson for spending time to be interviewed. Also, Sam Spinale, Amanda Efaw and Niece Motorsports for making this latest “Up to Speed” feature possible. You can keep track of Thompson on his Twitter account and here on TPF. Furthermore, follow Bradley Erickson on his Instagram account.