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!

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).