Ten with Townsend: Red Bull GRC 4 races in, post-MCAS New River

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NBC Sports Group motorsports analyst Townsend Bell does both Verizon IndyCar Series and Red Bull Global Rallycross analysis.

So we caught up with Townsend after this weekend’s Red Bull GRC round at the MCAS New River military base for a Red Bull GRC edition of the MotorSportsTalk original series “Ten with Townsend.”

Bell has been at both the Daytona doubleheader (June 20-21, shown right) and MCAS New River rounds as part of his hectic, driving and commentating schedule dating back to April.

A series archive is linked here and as always, we thank him for his time and insights:

-How would you compare this track, the MCAS New River military base, to Daytona as far as a Red Bull GRC circuit goes?

Pretty similar to Daytona but this track was unique for its big, wide, sections of the airfield. It’s similar to Cleveland airport back in the day.

-What was it like to be on an active military base for a race weekend? What is the closest comparable example of an event you’ve been to like this, or was there no comparison?

The active military at MCAS New River could not have been more hospitable. They were very excited to have GRC there and we were thrilled to see the installation up close and all of the amazing machinery at their disposal. I’ve never felt safer at a racetrack!

-What are the differences in calling a Red Bull GRC race versus an IndyCar race? Is the biggest thing the car difference, format difference or others?

Time! The races are so condensed with so much happening that it’s difficult to anything more than react. In some ways it’s hard as a commentator to not have a chance an offer analysis, telestrate, replay, etc… But as a fan, I love the concentrated action.

-What’s the single biggest thing you are surprised by on a Red Bull GRC weekend?

The amount of bodywork consumed…it’s pretty impressive at some venues… If that was my Ferrari IMSA racecar we’d be into the millions by now…

-Through four races, who has impressed you the most this season?

I like the way Ken Block has left the hooligan (hoonigan?) driving style behind and is competingwith poise and confidence as the guy to beat now, everywhere. But you have to single out Jeff Ward for what he did at Daytona, coming in as a one-off entry and almost taking the overall win. Very impressive and I’m looking forward to his series return as he alternated that Ganassi ride with Brian Deegan.

-There’s a lot of IndyCar teams (Ganassi, Andretti, Herta, SH RX) that have added a Red Bull GRC program. What are they gaining from their Red Bull GRC programs? What are they learning/how are they adapting?

I think they are gaining a platform that really appeals to the youth audience. I love seeing all of the guys and girls at GRC events that are in their late teens and early twenties- all jacked up on the 600+ HP crammed into a compact 4WD racecar. These are the cars (VWs, Fiestas, Subarus) they’re driving everyday and it’s cool to see the connection they have with the racecars and the heros that drive them.

-Was Ken Block lucky the restart happened to be able to get the win in the final? Or could he have caught up to Patrik Sandell and or Joni Wiman as the race went on?

Yes. Sandell looked to be set for a smooth, breezy trot to the win. I felt bad for him to have to re-rack to his original starting position and give up the lead he earned.

-As a rookie who now has a tough race, how does Sebastian Eriksson respond from this disappointment at the track?

Really no fault of his own (mechanical) so he simply needs to forget about it and get on to the next round. The DNF is painful in the points but he came into this round as the championship leader by virtue of strong pace and terrific race craft.

-How does Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ pair of Tanner Foust and Scott Speed rebound?

Scotch, or maybe Gin which I hear is making a real comeback. Seriously, they need to regroup and focus on reliability and strengthening their chassis to survive the warfare of a GRC weekend. Much too fragile right now. But they have all the resources to turn things around.

-Lastly, what is it like to have a guy like Foust in the booth, albeit unexpectedly? Had you two worked together before?

He was great to come up to the booth after a difficult DNF but he always manages to find a smile and provide great insight. No surprise as a two-time champion.

We worked together on the very first episode of Supercars- Exposed. I found the YouTube link here (see below):

It’s cool to remember I beat the champ on his home turf! (frankly I had to take way too much risk to pull that off on a wet mountain road).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.