Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Sports

Tampa's Jason Bell proves there's no age limits on racing

ST. PETERSBURG — A long-running desire to race burned inside Jason Bell, ever since he tried his hand at it when he was a kid. But as one of six children, Bell ran into the same barrier a lot of aspiring young racers hit. No, not a racetrack wall.

Money.

Fast forward to 2009. As a successful business owner in his mid 30s, finances finally allowed Bell to begin racing again. Thus began a long path that led to the downtown streets of St. Petersburg.

Friday, at age 42, the Lithia native took his biggest step in racing with his debut in the GTS class of the Pirelli World Challenge sports car series.

"I don't feel 42," Bell said Friday after his first of two races at this weekend's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. "On the racetrack I'm probably 25."

Bell, a Plant City High and USF graduate who lives in Tampa, landed his ride with Racers Edge Motorsports this year after spending several years in go carts and other open-wheeled series.

"These races are great because you're really only gone Thursday and Friday, or maybe you fly in late Wednesday night," Bell said. "And I'm a very hard worker so I don't miss much. In go-carting (the travel demand) is worse."

He has sponsors, but Bell's business acumen also helps pay for his racing ambitions. Bell owns Highway Systems, which builds structures that go over highways such as those that hold street signs, as well as Gulf Atlantic Powder Coating in Clearwater. The single father to 7-year-old daughter Addison also owns pieces of a couple of other businesses.

On Friday — in his first race on a street course, his first in a car with a roof and his first as part of an IndyCar support series — Bell finished eighth in a race won by Andrew Aquilante. Bell ran as high as seventh despite knocking in both of his mirrors when he brushed the concrete walls.

"But that's just because I was giving it everything I could," said Bell, noting that he got bonus points for the number of cars he passed. He'll start today's second GTS race in fifth place based on his best lap in Friday's event.

Bell has received coaching from former Indy Lights racer Bobby Wilson and raced against IndyCar drivers James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly in exhibition carting events. Daly, 25, stayed at Bell's home in downtown Tampa a couple of weeks ago when he was in town for a promotional event.

"I've known Jason for a long time, he's a good friend of mine," Daly said. "He's a guy who is a very well-established businessman who wanted to go racing. He's done a great job with it. I think he fits right in to the Pirelli World Challenge. … In the end, you're going racing no matter what (your age). I'm going against guys who are 20 years older than me as well. It doesn't matter. You've just got to go racing."

Bell's teammate at Racers Edge Motorsports, which is based in DeLand, also said age isn't a barrier to Bell's drive for racing success.

"Everybody makes their own way into racing somehow or other," said Jade Buford, 29. "If you're 50 or you're 20, if you're fast, you're fast. You're respected all the same."

Bell said he'll have at least 100, perhaps 150 folks cheering him on today for his second series race.

"I want to do better, I've got to get on the podium," Bell said. "(Friday's race) was intense, for sure. Thirty-five straight laps, no cautions. More than I expected, actually."

Until Friday, Bell hadn't raced for nine months. Yet his best laps came at the end of the race, when he said he was fastest.

"I feel good, I'm ready to race right now," he said about two hours after the race. "… I'll enjoy this as long as I can."

After he waited this long, who can blame him?

Comments
Holiday hoops tournaments for Tampa Bay

Holiday hoops tournaments for Tampa Bay

Once winter break rolls around, basketball tourneys and shootouts amp up. Here are the locals ones coming up throughout Tampa Bay. Are we missing your tournament? Email details to [email protected] basketballCDS Holiday TournamentWhere: Car...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Girls soccer: Land O’Lakes 5, River Ridge 1

LAND O'LAKES – They might not have been ready to play at the very start, but Land O'Lakes came around. Sydny Nasello scored two goals as the Gators (8-2) took over first place in Class 3A, District 8 with a 5-1 defeat of visiting Rive...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 2

The Rays have talked about a lot of things but not done much so far at the winter meetings, but that could change today.They have offers on the table for closer Alex Colome, and some of the interested teams – such as the Cardinals and Rockies &...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Warren Sapp accused of harassment; NFL Network suspends three analysts over sexual assault allegations

Warren Sapp accused of harassment; NFL Network suspends three analysts over sexual assault allegations

Warren Sapp, a former Buc and Pro Football Hall of Famer, has been accused of sexual harassment while a working as an analyst with NFL Network, according to a lawsuit.NFL Network has suspended analysts Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans and Ike Taylor "pend...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Piling on Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter

Rick and Tom podcast: Piling on Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter

Is there a rift between Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter as the 4-9 Bucs are eliminated from the playoffs for a 10th straight season?In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss what impact this has going forward for the Bucs and whether...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tyre McCants, USF’s brawny bruiser of a receiver

Tyre McCants, USF’s brawny bruiser of a receiver

TAMPA — Having spent 11 games watching Tyre McCants in the flesh — all 236 pounds of it — USF coach Charlie Strong seems convinced his team’s leading receiver down the stretch could be someone’s leading rusher down the road."I think he can do a whole...
Updated: 2 hours ago
MLB ump Dale Scott retires rather than risk more concussions

MLB ump Dale Scott retires rather than risk more concussions

LAKE BUENA VISTA — As a big league umpire, Dale Scott saw maybe 1 million pitches from the field. His final call, it turned out, was the easiest of all. Rather than risk yet another concussion, Scott has decided to retire at 58. "I’m done," he told T...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has key statistics that he puts great value in, finding a close correlation between success in those areas and success on the scoreboard. Winning the takeaway battle is always first among those priorities, but he and his staff...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Eagles confirm QB Wentz is done for season

Eagles confirm QB Wentz is done for season

PHILADELPHIA — Carson Wentz got the Eagles this far. Now, it’s up to Nick Foles to deliver Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title. Wentz has a torn left ACL and will miss the rest of the season and playoffs, forcing the NFC East champions to turn to...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 12 hours ago