After NBCSN’s first Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season, we checked in once again with our NBC Sports Group IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for MotorSportsTalk’s first 2014 installment of “Ten with Townsend.” Look for more of these to come over the course of the year. For a 2013 archive, check this link.
Without further adieu, thoughts from our ace expert on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
-With St. Petersburg a relatively mild race until the one restart, were you surprised by the level of aggression we saw at Long Beach?
Not really. I would say that’s the norm these days. For good reason too, because it’s so tough to win now. I fully expect a multitude of winners this season. So much quality, parity etc.
-Mike Conway’s win owed a bit to luck, but clearly he’s had the performance on street courses to help Ed Carpenter Racing. Where do you rate him in the field in terms of how talented he is on the road and street circuits?
Top 5 without question. To come in like he does part-time, bouncing between WEC commitments is hard enough already. Detroit last year was flat out breathtaking. I can still remember the first time he showed up for Panther Racing at a Sonoma test in 2008 (I think it was). Straight away- stunning speed.
-With Will Power’s St. Pete restart and now contact with Simon Pagenaud at Long Beach, were you surprised at all by either of those? Or was it more surprising there were no penalties assessed to him?
I didn’t see anything wrong with his St Pete restart. In fact I think it was text book to what was requested by race control. The Long Beach contact was certainly open for review but we are seeing the new ‘hands off’ stance that IndyCar announced previously – let the drivers sort it out. The flip side is the carnage the ensued after Hunter Reay’s similar move on Newgarden. So I’m not sure what the position will be now going forward with respect to ‘avoidable contact’. (BTW I never liked that term) I wouldn’t want that job in race control, so we’re lucky to have people who step up for the abuse!! In the end, life without fenders is complicated but so fantastic at the same time.
-Also Power-related, do you think his momentum was properly able to carry over from late last year into the first two races of the year? Or just more a case of starting strong without regard to 2013 finish?
I’d say St. Pete was expected and Long Beach was a disaster (by his standards) blessed with good fortune. His race pace was no better or worse than the top 10 cars, but circumstances fell his way for sure. The competition didn’t need that!
-Most impressive rookie thus far: Hawksworth, Munoz, Aleshin or Huertas?
Man that’s tough. Have to pull out Munoz because he had some races last season, not a pure rookie in my book. If you analyze their circumstances, the other 3 can all make strong cases. Hawksworth on pace, Aleshin on consistency, Huertas on the last second nature of his program. Flip a coin but all these guys are solid and going to cause headaches (strong competition) for the establishment for the rest of the season.
-Two races in – biggest surprise and biggest disappointment.
Surprise- Rookies are super strong and mistake free.
Disappointment- Seems like Rahal just can’t find the sweet spot to start the season these last few years..they certainly are putting forth the effort and resources. But hiring Servia was a smart move. He will help them tune things in, but he only can if he’s there full-time.
-Thoughts on JPM’s first two races back?
Methodically coming back to old form but not there yet…
-How was PT to work with in the booth? From a viewer’s standpoint he really helped add to yours and Leigh’s insights. Even on the course preview lap, too.
He was my IndyCar idol as a teenager so I’m biased. But the fans loved him and I certainly enjoyed the perspective and candor. He’s one of the most successful IndyCar drivers of all time, so when he speaks, we should listen. But with the Blue Demon mask on…his lips don’t quite work the same.
-You’ve seen how competitive this field is. Having the opportunity with KV for the 500 now confirmed, how much confidence does that give you to be in your usual one-off role but now with the defending champion team?
I sit there in the booth, looking at the depth of talent and competition, and think ‘oh boy, I’m about to jump in this tornado.’ But I think that every year and just go for it. Kind of like sitting at the bar, watching a mosh pit in full glory, pounding a shot and then getting it on. Insert Miles’ advice from Risky Business here..
-Besides IndyCar, a very busy year planned for you with the TUDOR Championship, Red Bull GRC broadcasts and additional TV work. What challenge are you looking most forward to this year?
“To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one’s ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”
The above quote came from racing driver and car designer Bruce McLaren, and if a life is measured in accomplishments and impact rather than length, very few have have ever done more than the man originally from New Zealand.
His driving statistics would be enough to stand on their own. He is one of only a few drivers to have won both the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans before achieving a string of victories in Can-Am during the 1960s.
However, perhaps his lasting legacy is as a designer. The founder of Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, now known as McLaren Racing Limited, he did more than hold his own while piloting his machinery in Formula 1, even winning the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix. But, his team’s stardom skyrocketing after entering Can-Am in the late 1960s. The group won five of their six races in 1967 and four of six races in 1968.
But those results pale in comparison to 1969, when his team won all 11 races in Can-Am with he, countryman Denny Hulme, Chris Amon and Dan Gurney as the drivers. They even finished an astounding 1-2-3 on three occasions that season, cementing McLaren’s status as one of the greatest drivers and designers who ever lived. In the decades since, the McLaren name has become synonymous with excellence, both in its racing cars and road cars.
Bruce McLaren’s life, sadly cut short at the age of 32 following a testing crash at Goodwood Circuit, is the focus of the upcoming documentary ‘McLaren.’ If the trailer is any indication, the film will serve as an epic tribute to a true pioneer, one who left an indelible mark on the entire racing community.
Team Penske and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which operates under Penske’s ownership, both revealed new partnerships earlier today.
The Penske team announced a multi-year agreement with 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company Stratasys Ltd., which will provide equipment and support to assist the organization’s engineering and manufacturing efforts in both the NASCAR and IndyCar programs.
“Our strategic partnership with Stratasys should keep our manufacturing and engineering processes at the front of the pack,” Team Penske President Tim Cindric said of the new partnership. “Stratasys is on the cutting edge of additive manufacturing technology for automotive applications. Utilizing their equipment and technical support will provide us with another means to put our ideas on the race track first.”
For the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, scheduled for June 2-4, Lear Corporation will join as the presenting sponsor. The supplier of automotive seating and electrical systems maintains an active presence in the Detroit area. Quicken Loans had been the prior presenting sponsor.
“The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is so proud to welcome Lear Corporation as our presenting sponsor in 2017,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the newly dubbed Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. “Lear and Matt Simoncini are great supporters of Detroit and our community. We could not ask for a better partner to team with Chevrolet and help us host world-class racing and a weekend full of fun and excitement in the Motor City.”
The event will continues its status the week following the Indianapolis 500 and remains the only double-header on the schedule.
F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales were on site for the launch of the challenger whose base is split between Enstone and Viry-Châtillon, and whose lineup features Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.
Check in above for the first edition of Paddock Pass for the new year.
Stay tuned for more on NBCSports.com from the week of launches and leading into the first test next week at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser will return to the cockpit this summer to compete in the SVRA’s “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am, scheduled for June 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Big Al” will join son Al Unser Jr., which will be their first competitive race together since 1993. It will also be the first time any member of Unser family has raced at the Speedway since 2008, when Al Unser III contested the Indy Lights Freedom 100 for the now defunct Playa Del Racing.
“I guess I got tired of watching the kids have all the fun,” quipped the elder Unser, who previously served as the grand marshal of the 2015 event. He later explained that expressed gratitude toward organizer Tony Parella, president and CEO of the SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) for creating the event and extending an invitation to compete. “Seriously, Tony Parella and his SVRA team have created a first-class event and that’s why the entire Unser family has gotten behind it. We believe in what he is doing and I personally enjoy reconnecting with the great fans of the Indianapolis 500.”
Parella’s enthusiasm mirrored Unser’s.”There have been a lot of great legends in the history of auto racing, but in my book Big Al is right at the top of the mountain,” he asserted. “I am honored beyond words. This is such a validation of what all of us at the SVRA have been working so hard to build. To be able to say that this great champion believes in what we are doing enough to strap in and race with us means everything to me personally and professionally.”
The Unsers will join 31 other Indianapolis 500 veterans to compete in vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs, with model years of 1963 to 1972, in the SVRA’s “Group 6” A and B Production. Each veteran will be paired an amateur driver to split time behind the wheel. Other events slated to highlight the weekend include a Motostalgia car auction, the Hagerty Insurance “shine and show” car corral, vintage motorcycle racing and displays, and hundreds of vintage racers celebrating a century’s worth of auto racing.