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Ten with Townsend: Fontana and 2013 IndyCar Debrief

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It’s been a few races since we’ve checked in with our NBCSN IndyCar analyst and driver Townsend Bell. But with the season in the rear view mirror, we thought it appropriate to conclude our season-long “Ten with Townsend” series with a look back both at the Auto Club Speedway finale and the season at large.

For a recap of past “Ten with Townsend” Q&As throughout 2013, here’s the archive.

-To start out, you raced against Scott Dixon in Indy Lights and lost the title, barely, then. Then you’ve raced against him in CART/IndyCar over the years and witnessed his development. How has he evolved as a driver/person since his Lights title and over the course of his three IndyCar titles?

He was incredibly strong even at 19-20 years old. What’s scary is that he is still only 33, and now has tremendous knowledge to draw from. The talent and approach has always been world-class.

-Did you prefer the fact that Dixon went out and won the title over the second half as opposed to Helio gathering points, getting some results but not the big wins? I know you had said earlier it was nice to see Helio change his analysis to collect the points.

I love the way he won. Head down and hauling the mail. He was in a hole, through no fault of his own, and just slammed the competition.

-How does Team Penske bounce back? Another year and another lost title. Chink in the Captain’s armor?

I don’t know. But quitting is not an option for that group. I think Power winning at Fontana could be the biggest story. The resulting confidence from knowing that he can win on a challenging oval is huge. If he gets on a roll, look out. It will also be fascinating to watch the Montoya situation develop. He’s jumping into a very challenging environment right now.

-Your thoughts on the race: refreshing to see attrition come back? What did you make of Power’s drive?

The finite debris was bizarre. Never seen anything quite like that in terms of causing all of the engine temperature issues… Power was solid. His oval apprenticeship is complete!

-Why do you think the dust/sandblasting was as bad as it was? What do you think IndyCar can do to fix it to where faces don’t get smashed, radiators get blasted?

Maybe if the cars went faster it would scare the dust away.

-Biggest surprise and disappointment from Fontana weekend.

Biggest surprise was the absence of EJ Viso. Biggest disappointment was that Carlos Munoz couldn’t hear me yelling at him from the broadcasting booth: “Ease off that low line….it’s going to bite you!”

-Biggest surprise and disappointment from the 2013 season.

Biggest surprise was Helio having double trouble at Houston. Biggest disappointment was witnessing Dario’s last race at Houston.

-What was your favorite race and/or moment of the 2013 season? Which race(s) did you enjoy calling the most?

You can’t beat the Indy 500, plus I led a lap which was cool. Seeing Tony rewarded for years of effort at Indy was sweet and I think most of the crowd agreed.

I think I enjoyed calling the Sonoma race the most with all of the pit lane drama.

-Your early order of excitement for 2014: Ganassi with Chevys, Andretti with Hondas, Bourdais at KV, TK at Ganassi, Montoya with Penske, potential Munoz/Filippi full seasons, or just the retention of everything we saw this year.

Montoya with Penske will have my full attention come St Pete. So curious to see which way that goes…

-Lastly, which of the GoPro course previews did you enjoy filming the most? Which one do you think scared your colleagues the most?

Giving Steve Matchett a lap at Toronto was the best. But only after I watched his face during playback- priceless!

Petrucci set for MotoGP return at Le Mans

PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: Danilo Petrucci of Italy and Octo Pramac Racing rounds the bend during the 2016 MotoGP Test Day at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 18, 2016 in Phillip Island, Australia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Danilo Petrucci will make his comeback from injury at this weekend’s MotoGP race in Le Mans after missing the first four races of the season.

Petrucci underwent surgery on his right hand due to a recurring problem that meant he could not race in Qatar, Argentina, Austin or Spain for the Pramac team.

The Italian’s place was taken by Michele Pirro for the last three races, but Petrucci is now fit again and will race at the Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend.

“I trained a lot in the last few weeks. This time I did things more calmly, waiting for my body to give me permission to train,” Petrucci said.

“I’m happy to be back and I feel good. Of course we must see the reaction to the first impact with the track as the intense workout made at home certainly cannot be compared to a race weekend. But I’m very confident.

“I want to thank all the people who helped me, my trainer Marco Baglioni, Tommaso, Filippo, and my brother Francesco who have trained with me, pushing me every day.

“I also want to thank the Medical Team of Terni who provided me with all the tools for physiotherapy and Dr. Tarallo, from the team of prof. Catani, who operated me.

“Then a big thank to all my fans for their support. I can’t wait to be at Le Mans and I hope I can soon give to all of them so much satisfaction.”

The French Grand Prix takes place on Sunday May 8.

Magnussen named Driver of the Day for Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Kevin Magnussen has won Formula 1’s official Driver of the Day poll for the Russian Grand Prix.

Magnussen started 17th in Sochi after a difficult qualifying session, but made the most of the trouble at the first corner for many of the cars ahead to work his way into the top 10.

The Dane’s pace was impressive during the second half of the race to ensure he finished the race seventh, marking Renault’s first points as an F1 constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish in F1 since the penultimate race of the 2014 season when he raced for McLaren.

On Monday, the official F1 Twitter account confirmed that Magnussen had won the vote through its website.

Kvyat, Gutierrez, Sainz handed penalty points after Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo collide at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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The Russian Grand Prix proved to be a busy race for the FIA stewards as a number of incidents resulted in three drivers receiving penalty points on their super licences.

Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez and Carlos Sainz Jr. were all sanctioned by the stewards for actions during the race.

Kvyat’s antics on the first lap defined a number of drivers’ races as he hit Sebastian Vettel twice in a matter of seconds, the second hit punting the Ferrari racer into the wall and out of contention.

Kvyat said after the race that it was easy to attack him, but the rest of the paddock was less than impressed, leaving many expecting an apology from the Russian.

After being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, Kvyat was also given three points on his FIA super licence, taking his tally up to five for the 12-month period.

Gutierrez was also penalized for an incident on the first lap after he took out Nico Hulkenberg and sparked a multi-car melee at Turn 2. He too received a time penalty during the race, but was handed two penalty points afterwards by the stewards.

Finally, Sainz was found to have forced Jolyon Palmer off track between Turns 2 and 3 during the race. He had 10 seconds added to his race time and also received two penalty points.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the podium next to Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg saw his Formula 1 championship lead swell to 43 points on Sunday after winning the Russian Grand Prix, marking his seventh straight victory.

The German has not lost since the Mexican Grand Prix back in November, and will head to the start of the European season in Spain later this month full of confidence.

It proved to be a race full of intriguing storylines as Lewis Hamilton fought back from 10th on the grid to finish second, Romain Grosjean took Haas back into the points and everyone got angry with Daniil Kvyat for causing mayhem at Turn 2.

Following the race on Sunday, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton brings you all of the latest news, interviews and insight in Paddock Pass.