NBC’s Townsend Bell highlights Justin Wilson’s great character, reputation (VIDEO)

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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died Monday at the age of 37 from the severe head injury he suffered Sunday after being hit by debris from a wreck at Pocono Raceway. NBC Sports IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell joined NASCAR America earlier in the day to discuss Wilson’s great character and outstanding reputation.

Besides having raced on track together in parts of the same season dating to 2008 (various crossovers meant Bell was in IndyCar while Wilson was in Champ Car from 2002 through 2007), the two were also briefly teammates in 2011, at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Bell filled in for two races for a then-injured Wilson, after Wilson’s back was hurt in an accident in practice at Mid-Ohio.

Bell explained what made Wilson such a beloved figure within the paddock.

“I think Justin is known as really the nicest guy in the IndyCar paddock,” Bell told NBCSN’s Dave Briggs. “Gracious and kind. A real gentle soul outside of the car and an absolute tiger inside the car. One of the most naturally gifted drivers, and somebody who has been largely underrated for most of his career… finally getting a first class opportunity, which he deserves, with Andretti Autosport.

“The incident couldn’t come at such a worse time for him, at a prime opportunity. The outpouring of support is a result of the person. But forget the racing driver, he’s somebody that anybody would step out to help in a time like this.”

Bell also expanded on his long-standing view IndyCar should eventually evolve to have closed cockpits, although he noted the implementation is something that will take time to perfect.

“It’s been discussed for a long time. We have been through… unfortunately incidents like this in the past,” Bell said. “Going back to Vegas in 2011 (with Dan Wheldon). Even prior to that, Ayrton Senna (in 1994 at Imola).

“I think the thing that drivers are always concerned about is head exposure. Because they’re not only open-wheel, but open cockpit cars. I’ve long advocated that’s my biggest concern, because the airplane industry stopped having open cockpit fighter planes in the 1920s or something. I think it’s time for us to evolve on the racing side.

“With the speed you go, with debris flying… you are at risk. But it’s easy to say that, knowing the implementation… it’s a very difficult thing and to test and develop the ideal solution.

“It’s been on everyone’s mind since 2011 in Las Vegas. We had an incident last year with James Hinchcliffe at the Indianapolis road course, where he took a projectile hit to the head and suffered a pretty severe concussion.

“It’s defnitely on everybody’s mind.”

Peacock to stream all Supercross and Motocross races in 2023, plus inaugural SuperMotocross Championship

Peacock Supercross Motocross 2023
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

NBC Sports and Feld Motor Sports announced that Peacock and the NBC family of networks will stream all 31 races of the combined Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the newly created SuperMotocross World Championship beginning January 7, 2023 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and ending October 14 in the place where Supercross was born: the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The combined series will create a 10-month calendar of events, making it one of the longest professional sports’ seasons in the United States.

The agreement is for multiple years. The season finale will air live on Peacock and the USA Network.

Peacock will present live coverage of all races, qualifying and heats across both series. The 31 total races will mark a record for the combined number of Supercross and Pro Motocross events that NBC Sports will present in a single season.

NBC, USA Network and CNBC will provide coverage of all races, including the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs and Final, through 2023 and beyond. For more information about the Peacock streaming service, click here.

“With our wide array of live and original motorsports offerings, Peacock is a natural home for Supercross and Pro Motocross races,” said Rick Cordella, Chief Commercial Officer, Peacock. “We’re looking forward to providing fans with an easily-accessible destination to find every race all season long, including the exciting finish with the newly formed SuperMotocross World Championship.”

MORE: A conversation about media rights created the new SuperMotocross World Championship Series

The NBC family of networks has been home to Supercross for the past several seasons and this is a continuation of that relationship. The media rights for both series expired at the end of 2022, which allowed Supercross and Motocross to combine their efforts.

In fact, it was that conversation that led to the formation of the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

The SMX series will begin on September 9, 2023 after the conclusion of the Pro Motocross season. Points will accumulate from both series to seed the SMX championship, which creates a record number of unified races.

“The SuperMotocross World Championship adds a new dimension to the annual Supercross and Pro Motocross seasons that will result in crowning the ultimate World Champion,” said Stephen C. Yaros, SVP Global Media and Supercross for Feld Motor Sports. “We are thrilled to be extending our relationship with NBC Sports so our fans can watch all the racing action streaming live on Peacock and the option to also watch select rounds on NBC, USA Network and CNBC.”

Complete 2023 coverage schedules for Supercross, Pro Motocross and the SuperMotocross World Championship on Peacock, NBC, USA Network and CNBC will be announced in the near future.