Ten with Townsend: Long Beach and Barber debrief

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Following what was easily the best race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, we check in with our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for the latest in the MotorSportsTalk original series “Ten with Townsend.”

A recap of Barber and Long Beach, held last week, is below; a series archive is linked here and as always, we thank him for his time and insights:

-How much did IndyCar need these last two races after a ragged first two races?

I didn’t mind the drama (entertainment) from the first two races. That was the exception, not the norm for IndyCar, and it highlighted challenges for all sides of the IndyCar community. This sport has a lot of complex moving parts.

-Where do you rate Barber among some of the best races you’ve watched? How much fun was it to call following all the strategies, passes and other elements?

Half the time I was lost trying to do all the strategy math in my head. I’m going to put that down to old age. Watching Graham come charging to the front was enjoyable along with Josef’s first win – he drove flawlessly. Big congrats to him and the CFH team. Long time coming for those boys (and team co-owners Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman, -Ed.).

-Robin Miller made a note during the NBCSN telecast that Americans winning help the series. Agree with that? Think Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal can help move the needle?

That’s probably tough to measure but we all like to see homegrown talent realize their full potential and Graham and Josef delivered that at Barber. We even had a Brit in the booth get pretty excited about two Americans! That can’t hurt.

-What did you make of Newgarden and his CFH Racing team essentially dominating Sunday’s race at Barber? How cool is it to see a first-time winner?

Can’t ask for much more than that.

-How impressed are you by Rahal and his team’s improved performance this year?

A team member told me that the dynamic of having Bobby step back and Graham step up has been huge. The results would certainly support that. I don’t think anyone has come close to completing the number of incident free passes on track this season that Graham has.

He has an extremely good sense of where the ‘spacing’ is with his car and that of his competitors. He had a fortuitous strategy to help the result at Barber but his speed, relative to other top Honda drivers, this season has been strong.

-Has Dixon’s quick turnaround the last two races, with the Long Beach win and a third at Barber, come as any surprise whatsoever? Or just a case where he and the Ganassi team are now fully firing on all cylinders earlier in the year than anticipated?

I think he is the Fernando Alonso of our sport. He simply performs, regardless of circumstance. Always.

-Do you think Honda made a stride at Barber or did it still seem as though Chevrolet held the overall advantage?

I thought their engine drivability was strong and maybe looked after the rear tires a bit better. Tough to really judge from the outside but that was my hunch. On pure speed, I don’t think the gap has changed.

-What was your biggest surprise at Long Beach, and biggest surprise at Barber?

– Long Beach: No Simona (de Silvestro) when when she had earned a sixth place points position after the first two rounds.

– Barber: (Francesco) Dracone because we all assumed he was a lap down while causing headaches for the field early on (apologies to Dale Coyne Racing). In fact, that was for position! Sort of…

-Two weekends, and two different broadcast partners for you. How do Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett’s energy and enthusiasm help add to the broadcast?

I’ve got the fastest/sharpest mind in play-by-play to one side and a freakishly sharp eye for detail on the other. It keeps me on my toes.

-Lastly you have a busy month of May ahead, highlighted by your latest Indianapolis 500 confirmation with Dreyer & Reinbold/Kingdom Racing. It’s been a few years since you were with DRR, what excites you most about the homecoming? And what do you think will be the difference on running the car with the new oval aero kit for the first time?

Time to go beast mode.. Take off the tie….. and strap on.

I always enjoyed racing for DRR. The team is really focused, well equipped, and ready to go. I like the fact that they have competed so well in the pitstop competition in recent years as a warm-up to race day. Those are the easiest passes I can make on raceday- on pit lane.

The cars will be faster than 2014. The question is… How fast? We’ll find out very soon.

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead

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With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.


In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list