Townsend Bell competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona then flew home to Los Angeles to receive bad news from his wife: Their home had been burglarized and the bulk of his racing memorabilia had been stolen.
Bell told The Associated Press on Monday the burglars made off with the 10 rings from his Indianapolis 500s, his ring for winning the 2001 Indy Lights championship, his Rolex watch from his 2014 victory in the 24-hour race and the Rolex he received for winning the IMSA title the next season.
"In the end it's just stuff, but it's special to just me," Bell told AP. "All the work you put in to get all that stuff, and at least you have recognition of the achievement, and now it's gone."
Bell's home was one of five burglarized in his Pacific Palisades neighborhood. To access his home, the thieves had to climb over a 6-foot fence and smash through the glass door in his master bedroom.
The jewelry was in a safe in a drawer, and Bell said the entire safe was ripped out and taken. A locked drawer in his closet was also removed, and most of the home was ransacked.
The burglary happened Friday night, but Bell was not made aware of it until he returned home because he'd left his cellphone in the Uber he took to the Los Angeles airport when he headed to Florida for the race. His only communication with his family was when he was able to check his email on his computer, and he said his wife didn't want to bother him during the Rolex.
"I told her 'It's just a car race!'" said Bell, who is also an IndyCar analyst for NBC Sports. "I don't really think I'd be focused on a stolen Rolex while I was racing. Well, actually, I'm back to zero now on Rolex watches, so maybe I would have been thinking during the race I had to win because I've got to start my whole collection over now."
Bell's team finished fifth in class in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race that ended Sunday.
All his items are engraved with his name, year and achievement. Bell is hoping that makes it easier for the items to be found.