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


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).