Matt Bell Earns Trueman Award With Sixth Place in Daytona Prototype Debut
Millville, NJ (18 July 2010) - You never get the second chance to make a first impression, and Matt Bell will pack his bags from New Jersey Motorsports Park with no regrets, knowing that he made a very good impression this weekend as he made the biggest step up yet of his career with an outstanding performance all weekend long as he was tabbed to race the No. 77 McDonalds, South African Airways, PR Newswire Dallara-Ford with Dion von Moltke for Doran Racing.
Bell's weekend, which saw him bouncing between the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Chevrolet Camaro that he drives for Stevenson Motorsports and the the Rolex Series paddock for Daytona Prototype action, generated significant interest in the young Californian as he looked like a natural despite the fact that Friday's opening practice session was the first time he had ever even sat in a Daytona Prototype.
The race was run in scorching weather that sent several drivers to the medical center during the course of the race. But besides his talent behind the wheel, the race also revealed his conditioning as he ran the first half of the 2.75-hour race despite not having a fully functioning cooling system.
"The car was fine--it didn't seem to have as much mid-stint grip as the bigger boys, but of course that could all be down to me and how I managed the tires, I just don't have the experience to know yet at this point," said Bell.
"But I'm very happy with how everything went this weekend, it was even better than I had hoped. It was trickier than I expected on the first lap with cold tires and full tanks--it was my first time driving the car in anger, and my first time with the car being that tricky to drive so I was very careful. My neck was sore from Friday, and it just didn't fully come back so I was having a little bit of a hard time later in the stint with the long right hand corners."
Bell started from eighth on the grid, and worked his way up to sixth before turning the machine over to von Motlke to take to the finish.
"I didn't know how daring to be--I don't know how most of these guys race, and I didn't know what it was going to do to the car to go off-line into the marbles to make a pass," said Bell. "So I just didn't know what to expect and I wanted to make sure we made it to the finish and that I saved as much of the car for Dion as I could. The hardest part was the closing speed with the GT traffic--it was so much more significant than anything I've experienced in Continental Tire and it took some getting used to."
Bell's weekend effort earned him the "Trueman Award" which is given to the driver who does the most laps and finishes highest, and is open to racers who do not derive their main source of income from racing. While Bell was eligible for that award this weekend, he might not be for much longer if you listen to his team owner Kevin Doran, who has an eye for talent to go with all of the Rolex's he has earned on the pit box for winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"What Matt did this weekend was nothing short of phenomenal," said Doran. "To jump in like he did, not having driven anything faster than a GT car before, and be right on the pace like he was was just amazing. If he wants to keep doing this, I think he has a long future ahead of him. We were really impressed and it'd be great to do this again now that he has this weekend under his belt."
Bell will be back in GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge action at Trois Rivieres August 14. He won the 2009 running of the famed street event.