Ever wonder where the next Sarah Fisher or Amy Barnes is going to come from?
There are a couple of young ladies right here in Carson City that just could be the answer to that question. They are 12-year-old Mackena Bell and 7-year-old Kellcy Bell, who are setting the Outlaw Kart world on its ear both here and at California tracks.
Mackena, who is going into seventh grade at Eagle Valley Middle School, has been racing for just over a year but is the points leader in the Box Stock class at Thunderbowl Speedway with two wins and only one finish out of the top three. Sister Kellcy, a second-grader at Seeliger Elementary, began racing in the Beginner Box Stock class this season, and has scored four wins and just took over the points lead at the last race.
"We got Kellcy a kart because she was bored at the races with nothing to do," said Shannon Bell, the girls' mother. "We never thought that she'd take off like she did. She surprised us."
By contrast, Mackena's first foray into karting ended as soon as it began, when she was 4 years old. Her father Kelly was racing an Open Outlaw Kart at Fuji Park at the time but Mackena wasn't ready. Last season she saw the karts running at Champion Speedway and got the bug.
"They went to one race without me and came home with a kart," Shannon said with a laugh.
Mackena's immediate goal is to win the Thunderbowl championship in Box Stock this year, then upgrade to a 125cc kart for next season. She had one outing in a 125 this season, subbing for injured Matt Vallarino.
"It was awesome," she said enthusiastically. "It's a lot faster than the box stocks."
She may stay in the Box Stock class at the California tracks and run the 125 at Thunderbowl for a season, due to the increased competition on the California circuit.
"Racing in California really has made her a better racer," says mom Shannon. "The fields are much larger and the driving more aggressive." Both girls have been very competitive in their divisions at the Chico, Ukiah, Lakeport, and Red Bluff, Calif. tracks. They are becoming familiar to the California fans, who love to cheer for the girls. Mackena has picked up the nickname "Mack Attack" in California, and Kellcy is sometimes known as "Cheesy" for her big smile, and sometimes "Kell C'ya."
Both girls share a common racing hero -- King of the Outlaws Steve Kinser. They travel to Chico every year when the World of Outlaws makes a stop there and are proud of having Kinser's autograph on several items of clothing. Asked if they had a woman racer they admired, both immediately named local sprint car driver Amy Barnes, who learned her trade in Outlaw Karts at Fuji Park. Indeed, Shannon has photos of a very young Mackena with a young Amy, who used to baby-sit for the Bell sisters.
One thing that the Bell parents insist on is that the girls keep up with their schoolwork.
"If they don't get the grades, there's no racing," said Shannon. Mackena is an A and B (mostly A) student, as is sister Kellcy, who was best reader in her first grade class last year. Science is Mackena's best subject, and Kellcy's is, naturally, reading. Both girls also play soccer, although Mackena took a year off this season to devote all her energy to racing. Asked about a career in racing, Mackena expressed a wish to follow Amy Barnes' tire tracks into sprint cars. Kellcy's future plans include a career in veterinary medicine, with maybe a little racing on weekends.
One thing the whole family agrees on is that racing is a sport the whole family can participate in.
"It's memories the girls will be able to share when they're older," said Shannon, who already has several scrapbooks full of photos and news articles on the girls' racing adventures. Between scrapbooks and trophies, a room addition to the Bell home may be needed soon just to hold all the memorabilia.
Of course, sponsorship is important at this level of racing, no less so than in Winston Cup. K. Bell Tile and Marble is the primary sponsor, with additional sponsorship from Olson Heating and Air, Scotty's Paint Etc., Dynamic Diversified Development, and Predator Racing Engines. Clarence Marshall of Predator also travels with the girls and helps with engine tuning and setup.
With just three more races at Thunderbowl, the focus is on the local championships. But just a week after the last race at Thunderbowl on Oct. 12, the girls start the California winter series in Red Bluff, Calif. If seat time is what makes a good racer, it's no wonder the Bells are excellent. And just for an extra incentive, they've come up with a new motto for the Bell racing team: "Be fast or get passed!"