Local racer Bell earns call up | NevadaAppeal.com

Local racer Bell earns call up

Roger Diez
For the Nevada Appeal

In her second year of racing with NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, 19-year-old Carson High graduate Mackena Bell was chosen to be one of four drivers – and the only female – to race in the K&N Pro Series East for the 2010 season.

Bell’s participation in the series, which has served as the proving grounds for racers such as Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr., was officially announced at Daytona on Tuesday, when she participated in the Women in the Winners Circle activities. Bell will be driving a 600-horsepower Chevrolet stock car in 10 races this season, at tracks that include Dover, Loudon, Martinsville, Iowa, South Boston and Lime Rock.

“I’m so excited about running at Dover,” she enthused. “It will be something I’ll be able to tell my grandkids someday.”

She is a bit apprehensive about the road course at Lime Rock, never having driven a road course.

“I’ll have to check it out on a video game just so I know which way to turn,” she said, referring to the method many young drivers use to learn new tracks.

Bell has to pinch herself every day to make sure she’s not dreaming. But in reality, Bell is living her dream of becoming a professional racing driver.

“When I walk out of the (Revolution Racing) shop, I’m just amazed that I am where I am, it seems surreal,” said Bell. “When I started racing in karts with my sister Kellcy eight years ago, it was just to have fun with the family and keep me out of trouble,” she said. “I had no idea it would take me this far. It hasn’t really hit me yet.”

NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program has taken a giant step forward this year under the leadership of Max Siegel, former president of global operations at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. The program has secured sponsorship from corporations such as Freightliner, Sprint, Sunoco, Impact, Racing Electronics, and Wix Filters to help finance operations. Instead of giving participants essentially a scholarship to a race team as it has in the past, Revolution Racing is now the only organization fielding cars for the female and minority drivers that make up D4D.

Bell will be racing under the tutelage of Andy Santerre, a veteran of the K&N Pro Series who has stepped out of the driver’s seat to become a crew chief and mentor for the D4D racers. Santerre recently masterminded the outstanding performance of Sergio Pena at the Toyota All-Star Shootout in Irwindale, Calif., where the youngster raced Cup driver Logano for the victory.

Bell was there to cheer Pena on.

“I was honored to be at Irwindale as part of the D4D program, and to see Sergio do so well,” she said.

Her first race in the K&N Pro Series East will be on March 27, but she will be doing some testing prior to that. With only 10 races on the schedule, she will have a number of idle weekends this season.

“I don’t know what I’ll be doing on my off weekends, but tell people I’ll be available for late model rides if they need me,” she joked.

Bell has been able to spend time with other Carson City racers who are now living back east. She has seen Shane Kline, and has been able to have dinner with Darrell Krentz and his wife. She said seeing locals has helped with the homesickness.

“I’ve never lived outside my parents’ house before, let alone 3,000 miles away,” she said. “But we have cell phones and Skype, and we stay in touch a lot. I really hate that I can’t go to my sister Kellcy’s basketball games. I’m her biggest fan.”

Bell said that her parents are planning to travel to her races this season.

“My main goal is to be able to pay them back for all they’ve done for me,” she said. “Running a family race team was a huge expense, and it taught me to have respect for my equipment. I hope that this opportunity I have will reassure my parents that they didn’t waste all the time and money they put into my racing.”

Fans will be able to see Mackena on the eight-episode BET reality series “Changing Lanes,” scheduled to air this summer.

To follow Mackena’s racing season, go to d4d.tv or mackenabell.com