Following Sunday’s Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco on NBCSN, won by Juan Pablo Montoya, MotorSportsTalk checks in with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for the latest installment of “Ten with Townsend.”
Between commentary, his Indianapolis 500 race experience and his regular commitments in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, it’s been a busy year for Townsend, and we thank him for his time and insights post-Pocono. For an archive of all “Ten with Townsend” posts, click here.
-You’d said earlier this year Juan Pablo Montoya was methodically coming back to form but not there yet. Did you think when he did get back on form it would be at this point in the year, or more toward the end of the year?
It seems like a reasonable point based on his experience and world-class talent. Now the question is when can he perform like that on a street circuit, short oval, or permanent road course. He was patient, precise and aggressive at all the right times today. Wins on the other disciplines are probably not far off.
-How does Will Power keep his head in the game given this series of penalties he’s triggered? Does he have anyone but himself to blame?
He’s fun to watch because he’s so committed to winning every lap, every session, but that is also what seems to trip him up so frequently. At this point he needs a dramatic re-think in his approach so as to minimize his exposure to penalties. I think Tim Cindric is an important part of coaching Will out of the hole he’s in. It’s an interesting challenge to harness the greatest talent in the series right now.
If I look at others to take the blame…the more I think about it, it’s really all Paul Tracy’s fault.
-Were you surprised he came after you guys in the booth post-race, or do you think that was just heat of the moment frustration knowing he’d lost the points lead and shot at another win?
Weird but a good laugh at the same time! I’m only 32nd in points but in his dome. How cool is that!?
-Did you like Tony Kanaan’s strategy this race of going for it every stint rather than opting to fuel save?
Well he started off going for it, then tried to nurse it but that wasn’t working so he had to go for it again but it was too late. Sometimes those strategies just don’t work out. I’m sure TK wishes he and his engineers could have a re-do. He had the outright pace to beat anyone at Pocono.
-Did Helio Castroneves’ bounce back this race impress you after his Houston accident?
Not really. He’s a contender year in and year out, race in and race out. Total pro.
-Who do you think has the mental edge between Power and Helio at Team Penske? Do you think JPM is getting to either or both of them?
Helio is super focused (always) under that bubbly exterior and not nearly as rattled as Will when things go wrong. JPM is simply having fun with none of the pressure the other 2 are dealing with – he could very well be in the mix at Fontana too! The other question is…with all 3 of his drivers in the top 4 in points right now…can RP finally see a championship delivered this season?
-The rest of the field: Surprises and disappointments at Pocono.
My surprise was (rookie Mikhail) Aleshin racing superbly on a track he had never seen…after just 2 short practice sessions.
Disappointments: I was feeling for (Jack) Hawksworth and (Bryan) Herta after a tough hit in practice.
-Having had the chance to race Indianapolis, but then watch/call Pocono, how differently do you think Pocono played out in terms of the race flow?
It was more ‘strategic’ than Indy with everyone cruising for the first 150 laps to save fuel. Watching the final restart though with everyone fanning out (Aleshin was almost in the paddock!) was pretty wild.
-You hadn’t been to Pocono previously. What did you make of the facility, crowd, event atmosphere and race itself?
I thought the track was super unique (this was my first time there). The crowd and event atmosphere has plenty of room to grow.
– How did you enjoy calling the race with Bob Varsha and Paul Tracy? How has PT developed in just a few races in the booth this season?
I really enjoyed it with Bob and PT. Bob is so polished and effortless with his delivery. My first U.S. broadcasting job (F1 on SPEED) was under his command so it was nice to work with him again.
PT has more winning expertise than anyone to ever sit in that chair so I try to listen and learn as much as I can. He also makes me laugh in so many ways he doesn’t realize. I particularly enjoyed watching him squirm as I learned Pocono with the Z28 in a single flying lap after dealing with his mild culinary freak-out when I ventured into the hood Saturday night in search of good food.