Mackena makes NASCAR debut
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist
While other Carson High School students were spending their last weekend of summer vacation at Lake Tahoe, hanging out at the mall, or cruising the streets of Carson City, 17 year old Mackena Bell was at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., driving her first race in the NASCAR Whelen All-American series.
Bell, who started racing in Outlaw Karts at Carson City’s Champion Speedway in 2002, has been moving steadily up the racing ladder. She won the track championship in the Legends division the last year of Champion Speedway’s operation, and continues to race both the Legends car and an Outlaw kart as well as moving up to stock cars. She is currently second in the Pro division and third overall in points in the Legends of the Pacific division, racing at Altamont, Lakeport, Shasta, Madera, Eureka, and other northern California tracks.
Bell is also under consideration for inclusion in NASCAR’s 2008 Drive for Diversity program, an initiative to give female and minority drivers a chance to show that they have what it takes to make it in the top levels of motorsports. Last year only seven applicants were selected out of more than 300 hopefuls, and Bell was not one of the lucky seven. However, this year she feels she is better prepared.
“I had to submit a DVD showing the different cars I’ve driven, professional photos, a resume including interests outside of racing, and a letter saying why I want to be chosen for the program,” said Bell.
She has also participated in the Lynn St. James academy, an invitational program for young drivers, and was invited to drive a midget and a sprint car at the prestigious Jimmy Sills racing school. Finally, she recently tested in a Grand National stock car, a 650 horsepower Toyota Camry that is close to a Busch or Nextel Cup car. If selected for the Drive for Diversity program, Bell will be put into an “arrive and drive” program, with the chance to drive in both the Whelen All American series and the Grand National division in a car prepared and maintained by Bill McAnally’s racing team.
Her career got a big boost last season when she caught the eye of Melo Motorsports team owner Marty Melo, who put her into one of his Late Model stock cars earlier this season. Last Saturday night’s NASCAR debut was an even bigger boost.
“Marty Melo has given me a great opportunity and now it is my turn to do something with it” said Bell before the race.
For his part, Melo said, “We look forward to being a part of Mackena’s NASCAR debut this weekend and I can say as the car owner I am very proud to have this young lady driving for me.”
In addition to the support of Melo Motorsports, Mackena’s NASCAR debut was sponsored by Dan Gamel RV, Praxair, Gerlinger Steel, Colorcraft, Bell Racing, Eldorado Casino, Pepper Jack Kennels and K. Bell Tile & Marble.
Saturday night’s 75 lap race went well for rookie Bell, who brought the car home in 12th place, only two positions behind veteran racer Harold Long. More importantly, she finished the race with the car in one piece, and was faster in the race than she qualified. Used to running up front, Bell’s focus on Saturday was getting used to the bigger car in traffic and not making mistakes.
“I know how important it is to earn the respect of other drivers and the track officials,” Bell said. “As difficult as it was to hang back, at the end of the evening when other drivers and track officials welcomed me back, I knew that all of us had had a successful night.
“Everyone on the crew worked hard all day and really made me feel comfortable. I can’t thank them enough for their support and for giving up their Saturday for a girl who’s just beginning. The entire team is a class act and I’m happy to be a part of it. I also want to thank my parents, whose support and love got me here.”
Bell had a huge cheering section rooting her on from the stands, including a representative from sponsor Dan Gamel RV and half a dozen of her male competitors in the Legends division. But she has no bigger fan than her sister Kellcy, a seventh grader at Eagle Valley Middle School and a racer of some accomplishment herself.
When asked by the track announcer what she hoped for her big sister, Kellcy brought the house down with, “I hope that she can continue living her dream and make it to the big time and when she does, I hope Kasey Kahne is still single!”
Mackena will return to All American Speedway in Roseville Saturday, Sept. 29. When asked how she feels about a return match, she enthused,
“I can’t wait! I know that with each race comes more seat time and with more seat time comes better finishes. My goal will be to better my finishing position, learn a little more and have fun. That is what racing is all about, isn’t it?”
If you want to keep up with Mackena Bell’s racing career, visit her website at http://www.mackenabell.com.