Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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?

Tampa's Jason Bell proves there's no age limits on racing 03/10/17 [Last modified: Saturday, March 11, 2017 12:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning

    Blogs

    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  3. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]