Bell: “Trading in my announcer suit for Robert Graham firesuit this May”

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NBCSN Verizon IndyCar Series analyst Townsend Bell will be writing a series of blogs for NBCSports.com this month. Here’s his first entry, filed after the car reveal of the No. 24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing and his first full day of practice on Monday, May 11.

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Bell in Robert Graham hat with No. 24. Photo: INDYCAR

Hi everyone, this is Townsend Bell from the “Greatest Racing Facility in the World,” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I have exchanged my NBC Sports announcer sports coat for my wild-looking Robert Graham driving uniform this month as I return to the Indianapolis 500 as a competitor.

Now, my regular job is driving a race car in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship for Scuderia Corsa with my partner Bill Sweedler in a Ferrari in the GT Daytona class. In fact, we finished fourth a week ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and currently rank second in the GTD point standings. But I then flew directly to Indianapolis to get ready for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

It’s always a thrill to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the biggest race in the world. Last year, we were running with second with 20 laps to go and we had a suspension failure late in the race. So I truly believe we can produce another strong run in the Indy 500. Working with the Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing team is exciting because this race is all the team concentrates for the entire year. And Indy is my only Verizon IndyCar Series of the year too.

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Bell and Dennis Reinbold unveil the No. 24. Photo: INDYCAR

Dennis Reinbold’s team has been strong in recent years too with a fourth with driver Oriol Servia and a ninth last year with a rookie, Sage Karam. This team’s pit stops are always quick and the team has solid experience on running well at IMS.

Bringing Robert Graham back as a partner is a tremendous plus for the team as well as Royal Purple. I think you can see that the Robert Graham Special has the most unique paint scheme in this year’s Indy 500 field. I know that the fans will enjoy the scheme too. The car looks great and we want it to be fast too. Our goal is put No. 24 Robert Graham Special in victory on May 24.

And speaking of the No. 24, this year, we are saluting a Hoosier favorite and IMS legend, Jeff Gordon. We have had Jeff’s blessing on using his No. 24 script and our car’s cockpit is adorned with a montage of Jeff’s victories at the Brickyard 400. Wouldn’t that be something if Jeff’s No. 24 gets back to the winner’s circle at IMS? That is our plan.

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Bell heads out for practice. Photo: INDYCAR

On Monday, I took to the famed 2.5-mile oval for the first time since last May 25 in the 98th Indy 500 as we had the first day of practice runs for the 500.

We really didn’t have any issues today as the crew did a great job preparing the Robert Graham Special for me. I want to thank Davey Hamilton for shaking down the car at the test on May 3 while I was racing at Laguna Seca. The driver (Bell) now has a few kinks to work out here at Indy but it feels so good to come back to the Speedway. Compared to what I race in the sports cars, this feels like a rocket ship.

The car is not much was different despite the new “Body Kits” from Chevrolet. In 2015, the Verizon IndyCar Series added the new body kits from Chevy and Honda and we’ll see how development program works the best as this race is the first for the Speedway kits. The car felt similar to last year’s Dallara chassis except that gusts of wind were coming across the front straightaway from the tunnels of the main grandstand. That did affect my car at times. In fact, I thought the car was broken at one time due to the wind bouncing the car around. It was an interesting experience but I’m glad I felt it today.

Overall, it was a very good first day and I think we can improve on it.

This week, we have two-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser Jr. is serving as my spotter in turn three. It is an honor to have Al helping us this week. Whatever tidbit of information I can take from a legend like Al is a benefit at Indy. It’s great to have him help us this week.

Thanks very much for reading our columns this month from Indy and we’ll have another you soon.



Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.