Indy 500 Insights: How Townsend Bell puts a deal together

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Every year, Townsend Bell puts together a one-off Indianapolis 500 program. The 2014 edition will be Bell’s eighth ‘500 appearance, after making his debut in 2006 and running every year consecutively since 2008. This year, he returns to KV Racing Technology, the team where he posted his career-best ‘500 finish of fourth in 2009, and where he seeks to improve upon it this year. The NBC Sports Group Verizon IndyCar Series analyst is able to provide both a driver’s an analyst’s perspective in the field. For part one of this daily series through this week, we look at how he put his 2014 deal together.

Preparations for the next year’s Indianapolis 500 begin pretty much the day after the current year’s Indianapolis 500 takes the checkered flag.

And for Townsend Bell, erasing what was a frustrating 2013 attempt in the race is the goal.

In a second Panther Racing entry, Bell started 22nd and finished 27th – he did have one moment where he made an excellent save exiting Turn 2, after a lurid slide. But otherwise, Bell’s 2013 ‘500 experience was the story of new partnerships.

It was the first time he’d raced the ‘500 in a Chevrolet, after running with Honda in all six of his prior attempts. It came in the recognizable yellow-and-blue Sunoco colors, matching the livery for DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, which premiered in theaters later that year.

And it was the first time we got introduced to his yellow with blue polka dot Robert Graham hat.

source: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

It’s a wonder the hat didn’t gain its own Twitter account, but it was one of the most memorable parts of Bell’s 2013 experience. It even made it to the Indianapolis 500 banquet, where Bell had a suit and rocked the hat while giving the speech.

This year, with support from Robert Graham NYC, now the primary partner on the No. 6 KV Racing Technology entry, and additionally from Royal Purple and Beneteau USA, Bell is back for his second stint with the team where he found his greatest Indianapolis 500 success.

As a one-off entry, it’s difficult to succeed, but having the partners behind makes the effort possible.

“I’ve been fortunate to have had some great supporters through the years,” Bell told MotorSportsTalk. “We’re all linked… me, my sponsors, and we’re all linked by a common thread of being driven by the dream to win the biggest race in the world. Great people jump on board to pursue that. Everyone’s been handpicked for the job.”

The team’s not afraid to have fun – witness Bell’s Robert Graham checkered driver cap now adorned by every member of his No. 6 KVRT crew.

The livery itself has gotten people talking, with a zipper down the middle to reveal a burst of speed. The inside of the car, wrapped in the color explosion, is also something to behold.

“In terms of getting partners together, I’m lucky to have a group that believe in me and want to have some fun at the same time,” Bell says. “We’ve had a great time entertaining, hats and things like that. It’s been fun. But we’re here for one main reason.”

That reason is, from a joke on Twitter, “dealing with lactose intolerance” – in reference to hoping to drink the milk Sunday afternoon.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.