Bell: “Carb Day is many things to many people; mine was many jobs”

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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 fourth entry, filed after a busy, busy Carb Day.

The driver of the No. 24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing was on track for practice  in the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge with his crew, then back on TV for live hits for NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special. 

Past blogs of the month are linked here (first blogsecond blog, third blog, cockpit analysis).

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Townsend looks ahead to the Indy 500. Photo: INDYCAR

Hi again, it’s Townsend Bell, and we are a day away from the 99th running of the Indy 500, the biggest race in the world.

After qualifying last Sunday, it’s been like a whirlwind of events and activities. But first, last Monday, one of our fellow racers and good friend, James Hinchcliffe, was in a horrific crash in practice.

The right front suspension broke on the No. 5 car and Hinch had nowhere to go except into the wall at a violent rate. The G load was 125 and the suspension went through the car and caused Hinch some incredible injuries.

It wasn’t until later in the day that we found that James nearly died on the track. The Holmatro Safety Team literally saved Hinch’s life. We must salute those guys for their spectacular efforts throughout the Verizon IndyCar Series. What a great crew!

I was able to fly to New York City Monday night for an Indy 500 Media Day with my primary partner this year, Robert Graham. We toured the Robert Graham showroom and saw some of their new line of men’s clothing. We did a few interviews including with Forbes Magazine and flew back to Indy on Tuesday night.

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Big day for drivers with kids. Photo: INDYCAR

Even though we don’t have cars on the track from Tuesday through Thursday of race week, we still participate in a variety of events to promote the 500.

On Wednesday, I went to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis which is one of the top five children’s museums in the world. Just a sensational place for kids. The museum has a special Hot Wheels exhibit this summer and I was able to race Hot Wheels cars against some kids, sign some autographs and take photos with many of the children.

Later in the day, all 33 drivers went to the Forever Fit Park for a fitness and game day with 9,000 Indianapolis Public Schools children. What a crowd.

Thursday at Indy is usually a day for the drivers to meet with a host of media members. Each driver has their own table and the media walk up and ask questions individually. Similar to media day at the Super Bowl, it’s funny what type of questions you have thrown at you that day.

In addition, I had some phone-in radio interviews and a live television spot with Fox Business network. It’s always important to get media exposure for your partners like Robert Graham, Royal Purple, Chevrolet, Loftus Robinson, American Wheels and others.

Later Thursday night, we attended the “Yellow Party,” a great charity cancer event developed by the defending Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife, Beccy. Just a tremendous cause.

Of course, Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is “Carb Day.” That title goes back to when the engine ran carburetors and the crews would dial in the engines for the race. Now, the Carb Day event is one-hour final practice for the 33 drivers and a ton of other activities including the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge as well as several top bands in concert including OAR, 38 Special and Jane’s Addiction.

There was a huge crowd (over 75,000) at the Speedway Friday and it is like a rite of Spring for the locals. Partying is part of the tradition at Carb Day.

For me, it was a busy day, but it was exciting too. Our Robert Graham Special Chevy race car felt pretty good in race trim Friday. We’ll make a couple of adjustments to improve the car for Sunday’s race. We have been very quick on our pit stops all month and I feel confident about our chances in the race.

In the pit stop challenge, I thought we had an excellent chance to advance to the final. We set the quickest time of the entire Pit Stop Challenge in the first round at 12.144 seconds to defeat James Jakes’ team. But we didn’t get the solid stop we wanted against Will Power’s team in the second round. And we lost with a 13.336 to Will’s 12.755. We’ll improve on that aspect too and have strong stops in the race.

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Through Gasoline Alley. Photo: INDYCAR

Following the Pit Stop Challenge, I went immediately to the IMS winner’s circle where the NBC Sports Network crew was setting up the booth for the Friday afternoon telecast. I was there in my driving suit and my Robert Graham hat and ready for my other job as race analyst.

I really enjoy talking about the races with my colleagues Paul Tracy and Leigh Diffey. But this weekend, Leigh is calling the Formula One race in Monaco for NBC Sports. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee were on hand here in Indy for NBC Sports too.

On Saturday, we have a fan autograph session, a public driver’s meeting and the annual 500 Festival parade in downtown Indianapolis. That is always fun for my family – wife Heather and my sons, Jaxon and Jensen.

Overall, we have had a good month here at Indy and, on Sunday, we have to be patient and pick our spots in traffic to have a good performance. I hope you enjoy the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”



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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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