PEORIA — Tyler Bell is a DAG.
And that's a dream come true for the Eureka native.
"They call guys like me DAGs on the IndyCar circuit -- Data Analysis Geek -- and I'm proud to be that guy," said Bell, 24. "If something is going wrong on the car I know it through my telemetry before the driver knows or the car gets to pit row.
"And just for a challenge, I've been practicing doing tire changes on the pit crew. No other DAG does that."
Bell is a 2013 Eureka High School graduate who was embarking on an internship with John Cummiskey racing when we last heard from him in 2016.
He's gone a long way since then. Right to the winner's circle, in fact.
The Eureka native was hired by the Harding Steinbrenner race team on Feb. 1, and two weeks into his stint there the team's 19-year-old rookie driver, Colton Herta, put them in the winner's circle at the Circuit of The Americas race.
"I started in there and we got a pole position, got a win, and I was still heavily in the learning curve on the car," Bell said. "All of a sudden, we had a win. There were just no words for that experience. Couldn't believe it happened. It was just amazing. You are in the winner's circle with your team, everyone is taking pictures, so much is happening."
Herta won at Circuit of The Americas in just his second start as a rookie. He reportedly is a hotly-pursued driver who may leave Harding Steinbrenner after 2019.
That leaves the race team on an unknown course as well as the 17-race IndyCar season winds down. It could get complicated, as Harding Steinbrenner Racing formed a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport ahead of the 2019 season. Herta is bound by contract to Andretti, which works with Harding Steinbrenner.
It's a tough business. If the race team folds, Bell will be on the move again.
"This sport, it's very hard to make it," Bell said. "Very hard. It's not like having an engineering degree and being hired by Caterpillar and you have the same education and experience and doing the same job everyone else does. It's very competitive, and very exhausting.
"We have a race Friday at Pocono, then we fly back to Indy, flip the car for the Gateway race in St. Louis and get on to the next track.
"We'll rebuild the car overnight after that race and go to Portland."
Herta won the pole for that Portland race on Sept. 1. He edged out Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 winner.
Bell has had a journey of his own.
He was double major at IUPUI in mechanical engineering and motor sports race engineering and earnerd degrees in both. He credits his internship at Cummiskey as the catalyst for where he is today.
Bell worked on the Cummiskey team through 2017. Then he moved on to veteran IndyCar driver Jay Howard's Formula 4 team.
That's a junior circuit for open-wheel racing, focused on developing drivers.
Then Conquest Racing brought him in from May of 2018 through Feb of 2019. Along the way, he graduated from IUPUI in 2018, and worked as a subcontractor on a lot of cars.
His break came when Harding Steinbrenner Racing hired him as its data engineer for Colton Herta's team.
"I handle all the sensors on the car, anything electrical," Bell said. "You get an hour of practice time before a race, and it's crucial."
He worked on A.J. Foyt's third car last year. He's been on the crew at the Indy 500.
On the IndyCar circuit, lead race engineers can command salaries in the range of $150,000. Assistant engineers are usually around $100,000 and a quality DAG will earn about $70,000.
Monday through Wednesday are 10-hour work days. Then Thursday through Sunday are at the track, where shifts are typically 13 hours.
"What I really like is the challenge of it," Bell said. "I like to do things that haven't been done. Our race engineer works for Andretti. So I do a lot of things the Andretti way.
"I like the small-team aspect we have here. I can dream up a project and just go do it. I've spent a lot of time developing a computer that will monitor certain pit activity -- I can't be more specific because it's a proprietary thing.
"This job becomes more and more real for me as I do it."
That's all for Cleve In The Eve on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.
Here's your sports quote of the day:
"At Indy, we are the NASA of the production-car world, and that's clearly why manufacturers are involved – it's such a good testbed."
— Mario Andretti
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs for the Journal Star, and writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.