Bell will take next best step to IMCA Northern SportMod

Rookie Roger Bell built the Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod he’ll pilot this season at Oregon’s Cottage Grove Speedway. (Photo by Kathryn Bell)

MARCOLA, Ore. – Roger Bell will put another checkmark on his bucket list when the green flag flies for his Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod rookie campaign. 

Bell ran a street stock at Willamette Speedway last year, earning top rookie honors and finishing sixth in points in his first-ever season on the track. 

“I just decided life was too short, I wanted to do this. It’s a bucket list thing,” said Bell, 56 and who now works for the Forest Service after serving 13 years in the Navy. “I pretty much live in the Speed­way Motors catalog. It’s like Christmas when the parts get delivered.”

He sold his street stock and bought an old Modified chassis, found under a tree covered with leaves and originally built in the early 2000s by friend Dick Wright and Larry Follett, both long-time Modified drivers in the Pacific Northwest. 

From last November to this February, Bell pored over the IMCA rules before building his own “old school” chassis in a 30×30 shop that’s understandably race-themed and the talk of the town among race fans in his hometown of Marcola. 

“I’d grown up in the pits crewing for a 1965 Chevelle super sportsman team and run number 79 as a tribute to my former stepfather Gary Branch,” he said. “I love to weld and fabricate. I was a mechanic in the Navy and when I got out I started going to the races again as a spectator.” 

Bitten by the racing bug, Bell finally got behind the wheel for 16 starts last season.

“Northern SportMods seemed like the next best step up for me. They are really a growing division on the West Coast,” he explained. “A lot of drivers are going to Northern SportMods because they like the cost and because they’re competitive.”

Facilities manager for Willamette National Forest, Bell put his shop skills to the test and con­verted a golf cart chassis into a pit vehicle that matches his Northern SportMod and says his wife (and Forest Service co-worker) Kathryn is his biggest fan. 

“Like all the drivers, she’s excited to get going,” said Bell, who will be a regular at Cottage Grove Speedway. “My car is ready. I can’t wait to start racing.”