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 five of this daily series through this week (see parts four, three, two, one here), Townsend discusses the pre-race week, which is primarily comprised of off-track obligations.
The days of May 11-19 at Indianapolis are all about the on-track buildup to the 98th Indianapolis 500.
Meanwhile the days from May 20 through May 24 are all about everything else off-track.
For NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, that means sponsor commitments, TV work, media obligations, dinners, functions and this year, sports car testing.
Bell, though, is a veteran of the process and takes it all in stride.
“I guess I’m used to it,” Bell told MotorSportsTalk in an interview earlier this week. “I’ve learned little things to make my life as streamlined as possible despite the activity, sponsors, media obligations, and everything else. I have a nice support team both at KV Racing and couple additional support.
“Anything I can do to just focus on driving, I take advantage of those opportunities. It’s the biggest race of the year for any of us and especially for me. It takes priority.”
This week, Bell qualified Sunday, practiced Monday, flew to Watkins Glen for a sports car test on Wednesday and was back in Indianapolis Thursday for IMS media day. Then it was back on track Friday morning for practice – Bell ended third and was pleased with his No. 6 Robert Graham-Royal Purple-Beneteau USA Chevrolet – and into the booth for NBCSN’s coverage of Carb Day.
“You go from one thing to the next, but it’s nice to stay busy,” Bell admitted. “Going to Watkins Glen earlier this week, I had the best time (driving the No. 555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3). I hadn’t been there for 15 years (1999). I just had a blast.”
The off-track elements do a good job of reminding Bell of how fun the entire motorsports atmosphere can be.
“This whole week is a little different this year because of the sports car test,” he said. “The buildup is fun. I’ve come to enjoy all of that, the parade, or when the sponsors come to town, the dinners, drivers meeting… the traditional elements.
“I’ve come to enjoy the traditions. The older I get, the more you want to soak it all up, you know you’re not doing this forever.”