With the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader in the books, we again had the chance to catch up with our NBC Sports Network IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for his thoughts on the weekend. With a busy schedule that’s also included his racing three other types of cars just since the last NBCSN race at Milwaukee, we definitely thank him for his time. Without further adieu, the latest from Townsend (see all prior installment links here):
-Toronto had a crazy first race, little quieter second. Do you think doubleheader format worked well here or is this place crazy enough that they better to pack all the action into one race?
I thought it worked well although I don’t want doubleheaders to start reducing the overall number of events on the calendar. Clearly with Jakes’ accident on Sunday we are finding the limits of driver fatigue in doing both races. Electric power steering might be a good consideration going forward. That’s the intelligent solution to the problem I think.
-Standing starts – pass or fail?
Pass. But let’s not pretend we are trailblazing here. Let’s adopt the FIA F1 process for standing starts, lock, stop, and barrel and just replicate everything. From how to treat aborted starts to what the lights look like and where they are placed. It works, fans understand it, and it frees the series up to put their talents into greater challenges. I think standing starts should become the standard on road/street, rolling starts on ovals.
-How much of Scott Dixon’s incredible last eight days do you put down to him, and how much to the team and what they may have found both in new engine spec and from their test at Sebring?
You have to give Scott full credit here. He is executing on another level than the rest right now. No mistakes, no dramas, just cleaning up. He has been capable of that since Indy Lights.
-Should Helio be shaking in his boots at Dixon’s form or do you think that will motivate him and the Penske team to fight back harder?
He should be nervous. Ganassi looked untouchable at Toronto in both races for pace and consistency and we have a stretch of road and street circuits coming up. Helio should be proud where he performed relative to Will Power- the standard bearer for Penske. I think that shows Helio has studied Will and raised his game.
-Do you expect RHR to bounce back from a tough weekend? We’ve seen him be resilient before.
He always does bounce back. He didn’t like my assessment of the accident with Power on Sunday but I’m always impressed with how he bounces back from drama. Regardless of blame. He is a quarterback-pedigree guy now and will lead his team down the stretch.
-From what you know about Tom Brown and his experience level, how much has his presence helped Bourdais and the Dragon team? Impressed at how quickly they have gelled?
I would say it’s been everything to do with the results. Tom is among the very best in the sport and it’s a powerful combination when you pair him with a championship caliber driver. I think they’re just getting started. Have to respect Jay Penske’s passion for being the best too. He is driven by one thing: winning. Actually two things: winning and beating his Dad.
-Biggest surprise and disappointment from Toronto weekend.
Biggest surprise: Carlos Munoz– zero experience in an IndyCar on a street circuit, zero time to prepare. Mistake free run and a star of the future. Credit to John Barnes for giving another Lights guy a chance.
Biggest Disappointment: Probably Mike Conway in qualifying because we all were expecting and hoping for another miracle like Detroit. He still did a very solid job given the circumstances. Nobody pushes harder than that guy.
-With so little track time for IndyCar on these doubleheader weekends, what could be done to improve the amount of track time other than slashing number of series on track or dropping the second race?
Don’t need it. I only had 3 laps of practice in SST before our standing start. And there were two new ramps that we had never even seen on course for the race! Why should IndyCar drivers get it any easier??!
-You’ve driven a little bit of everything since we last chatted with GRC, ALMS Ferrari at Lime Rock and Stadium Super Trucks at Toronto. You’d been used to the Ferrari but what did you make of your GRC and SST opportunities, and their horsepower amounts?
Xgames Munich with GRC was awesome. Cars are amazing. Super fast. I was so stoked to win the LCQ and finish 6th in the main in my first attempt, especially with new sponsor- Royal Purple- on board. Great event all around. Plus I get mad street cred for banging doors in the air with Ken Block.
SST in Toronto was simply insane. Insanely fun. Robby and PT were my IndyCar idols growing up for their brash and wild demeanor. So to roll out for practice with both of them, with 600 hp trucks and steel ramps was the ultimate joy ride! The crowd loved it and we had a blast.
I’ve been very lucky this year to get to do so many different cool things behind the wheel. Indy, Ferrari ALMS, GRC, SST, even a 3 million dollar vintage Indycar at Milwaukee. I feel like Jim Carey in “Yes Man”. Let’s hope it continues.
-Lastly, what was working with Steve Matchett like on the IndyCar side?
Very good. I have worked with Steve in the past with F1 on SPEED Channel and we picked right up where we left off. His natural technical curiosity serves the fan well I think as he is literally exploring under the hood right along with the viewer at home. I think that makes for good TV. Hope to work with him again. Also thoroughly enjoyed scaring the $%#@ out of him in the pace car. Does that mean I need therapy?