Ten with Townsend: Sonoma and 2015 IndyCar debrief


Following an emotional roller coaster at Sonoma to cap off the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, we check in with our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for the latest installment in the MotorSportsTalk original series “Ten with Townsend.”

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

-When you have a tragedy such as we’ve had this week with the loss of Justin, how do you compartmentalize and move ahead while still honoring a fallen friend/great driver and greater man?

As a racing driver, there is no option when you strap in the car: it will force your focus. Perhaps that’s why, in the end, it’s the best therapy for the drivers.

-As you and I were both on assignment elsewhere at VIR instead of at Pocono, was it harder to be away or was it good to be able to come back this weekend to Sonoma and reunite with the IndyCar family?

I had the forced focus going at VIR, but the sweetness of victory was short-lived as I heard the call live on IndyCar Radio on the way to the airport.

-What are some of your favorite Justin memories?

Having him come up to me after the Richmond race in 2008. Flaming mad but uncontrollably polite. I remember thinking… “This is the nicest guy I’ve ever battled against.”

-You said during the pre-race show to watch out for Dixon. Should we call you NostraTownsend now?

No, a simple plaque will be fine.

-All kidding aside, even with as cool and calm as Dixon is, how surprising is it he was able to make up the 47-point deficit? Did double points swing the championship too much in your opinion?

It was the same for everyone. A level playing field and Dixon grabbed the pie and ate it.

(Editor’s note: Townsend wrote this now incredibly accurate line after Iowa: “I predict Dixon and Montoya down to the last lap.. Iceman cometh…as always…”)

-Did Montoya and Penske lose the title, did Dixon and Ganassi win it, or was it a little of both?

There’s a certain twinkle in PT’s eye when he reminded us that this was the seventh time in eight years where Penske has ‘lost’ the title at the final race. It would be hard not to see this one that way.

-When you look back at the season Graham Rahal and RLL had, should they be disappointed it ended how it did or be thankful they enjoyed such a successful campaign?

They punched above their weight and they should be proud of the season. The vulnerability of a one-car team was certainly exposed on the starts and restarts Sunday as the multi-car management took place.

-Sonoma race: Biggest surprise and/or disappointment you had.

Biggest surprise was Rodolfo Gonzalez. Solid all weekend and an impressive result.

Biggest disappointment was watching another great result slip through Josef Newgarden’s very talented hands.

-The 2015 season: Biggest surprises, and/or disappointments you had.

Biggest surprise: Easily Rahal. Didn’t see that coming at all.

Biggest disappointment: Penske. I thought you could make a case for them winning every race this season. In the end their total tally was three!

-Lastly, what are some of your favorite memories of the 2015 season? This was a turbulent year for IndyCar but did you think the series’ on-track product overcame some of the challenges that sprouted up during the year, notably during month of May and then here in the last month?

I think my favorite memory will be Chip “Axl Rose” Ganassi testing the shoulder strength of his Target VIPs. I thought I had seen it all.

It’s nice to see he still has the passion for winning and a much more elegant execution than his Mid-Ohio stage dive after Kimball’s victory in 2013.