Townsend Bell thriving early on at Indy in Andretti’s fifth car

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS –  Townsend Bell’s form this week has been one of the early interesting and impressive story lines in practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Bell’s deal with Andretti Autosport was formally announced at Phoenix in early April, with California Pizza Kitchen and Robert Graham serving as co-primary sponsors of the No. 29 Honda, and other partners such as the Justice Brothers on board.

As he noted after ending second in Thursday practice, it’s funny in a sense for him as an NBCSN analyst to see the Honda early week improvements in practice, considering their early season struggles.

“A few weeks ago, a month or two ago, I would have said ‘I don’t know’ (about Honda),'” Bell said. “I’ve watched Honda since I was 5 years old do great things in racing, whether in CART, IRL, or now IndyCar. I know how hungry they are to win this race. They’ll do anything it takes. They’ll go over and above to make sure they deliver. They come here well-prepared. Andretti is too. They haven’t had the best start to the year.”

Bell elaborated on those earlier comments during Thursday’s post-press conference.

“I think I’m in the television media a good part of the year, and it’s almost weird because two months ago it was all about, oh, my gosh, Chevy is just dominating, and Honda, you know, has just done a phenomenal job to keep their heads down, keep working, and they’ve come here very well-prepared, and I’m super proud to be in one of their cars. It’s been neat.

“I told somebody earlier, you know, for as long as I’ve watched the television, which is since I was probably five, Honda has always won.

“You know, they’ve won in Supercross when I was a kid. They’ve won in MotoGP. They’ve won in Formula 1.

“So in the back of my head, even back when things might not look so good at the beginning of the season, I just knew that they would come back, especially for this race, with a strong program.”

The strong program Bell has in front of him is the fifth car at Andretti Autosport, which has a very solid engineer in Craig Hampson and a solid crew led by crew chief Jeff Grahn.

For a one-off program, Bell was incredibly thankful for the preparation work and the mindset change in moving from a single-car, one-off program, which he ran last year with Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing.

“I’m really proud of my team of guys that have come together to support this fifth car one-off entry with Andretti, and also really thankful to be part of a five-car program where there’s so much information to learn and reanalyze what I do and all of that. Also the chance to run with them in traffic repeatedly is, I think, helping me a lot,” Bell explained.

“Everything feels very familiar, so new engineers, first time working with Craig Hampson, he’s been just terrific, and Jeff Grahn, my crew chief. The car has been just meticulously presented every day.

“The guys haven’t made any mistakes, and they’re very methodical with the preparation of the car, and that just gives you a lot of confidence knowing that you’ve got really solid, experienced people that are making sure that you’ve got the best thing that they can give you.”

Bell actually admitted it was the driver that more or less let down the DRR crew during last year’s race. In 2014, Bell was one of the passing stars – he rose from 25th to as high as second then driving for KV Racing Technology – before a heavy accident took him out in the final 10 laps.

“I thought DRR did an incredible job for me last year. I was really pleased. I let them down a bit in the race,” Bell admitted.

“But it was a one-car team with a new kit. You’re limited in the information you can collect. This is completely the opposite. The aero kit largely repeats in many facets, and the team has a lot of information to rely on.”

Bell, who called this his best Indianapolis 500 opportunity yet after signing, has a best finish of fourth in 2009 (KVRT) in nine prior starts.

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports