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

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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.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage