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.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III