It’s been a busy few weeks for NBC Sports Network IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell. Not only has he called the first four races of the season, but he’s also raced twice in the American Le Mans Series with the West/Alex Job Racing/Boardwalk Ferrari team and done TV work for NBC’s Stadium Super Trucks coverage.
Oh, and he got his Indianapolis 500 deal done too. Bell will race the No. 60 Sunoco and “Turbo” movie entry for Panther Racing.
With all that out of the way, Bell still had time to provide some insights from the last two IndyCar races at Long Beach and Brazil. It’s the latest installment of MotorSportsTalk’s “Ten with Townsend” series (see St. Petersburg and Barber debriefs linked here).
-Before we get to Brazil, how excited are you to have your Panther deal done for the 500, and what will it mean to you to get to work with JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia?
I’m super pumped. I’m really looking forward to working with both of them. They both get around Indy very well and I expect we’ll have great cars. It helps having driven for Panther (2004 and 2005) and DRR (2008 and 2011) in the past.
-Brazil: Where does it rank among races you’ve seen? What was it like for you to call those final laps?
It’s the best IndyCar street race I can recall! It was a lot of fun in the booth, and I had a hard time not letting a few holy expletives slip out!
-You said on the broadcast, basically, that now the gloves are off in terms of defending vs. blocking. Do you see that as a positive for the series where officialdom doesn’t interfere?
I expect the drivers will be quite vocal about consistency. How are we supposed to know where the line is if it’s always moving?
-What does it say about Hinch in that he knew how to read Sato’s moves and then be able to pull off a move as he did?
I think it shows his maturity to patiently take care of his tires while the tow in front went at it. Sato did a great job to try and hang on but he was out of grip by that last lap.
-On Sato (pictured): Regardless of whether he was or wasn’t blocking, with a win and second place, how impressive has he and team been in the last two races?
They have been terrific, but you could see their improvement coming last year. The fact that they are putting it all together over a race weekend is impressive. The pieces were all there but sometimes they just need to be strung together. Conor Daly should be excited.
-Through four races, do you feel that the other teams have caught up to Penske and Ganassi, do you think they’ve regressed, or just had poor luck?
It’s a little of both. With a spec car it’s more difficult to find those advantages these days. The benefits of that are debatable.
-Most improved at Brazil? Biggest disappointment?
(Josef) Newgarden was great. It was nice to see him get a solid top-five and charging for a win.
(Tony) Kanaan. He worked so hard despite the pain and came up short thru no fault of his own. He is the ultimate warrior, and he’ll be strong at Indy, I’m sure.
-Now as we head into the month of May, do you anticipate the same teams will be strong or does moving to ovals shift it back to the power teams?
Man, it seems like the whole field is strong… seriously.
-At Long Beach, how did you balance the commitments of TV and also racing in ALMS? What did you learn about the track from racing that you could translate to the broadcast?
That plus frantically trying to get my Indy 500 deal lined up? I’m lucky to have some patient employers who share my passion for racing.
The nuances of the race track help me anticipate what might happen during the race. My broadcast instincts are sharpened.
-And lastly, how the hell did you survive the GoPro course preview with Wally’s shenanigans?
When he blinded me with silly string during an opposite lock drift…..I was convinced NBC was going to be the proud owner a highly modified Corvette!