Skip to content

Indy 500 memories loom large in one driver’s race prep

May 24, 2013, 4:09 PM EDT

Townsend Bell AP

Townsend Bell is the IndyCar color commentator on NBC Sports Network and a professional driver. He’ll drive the No. 60 Sunoco Turbo Chevrolet during the 97th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

My road to the Indianapolis 500 essentially started in 1986. I was 10 years old and living far away in the San Francisco area. Being 10 meant it was “my year;” my time had come in the Bell household. You see, there was this deal with my dad and my two brothers.

My father had promised us that when we turned 10, we got to select a destination for an all-expenses paid trip. Nothing lavish, but just some quality travel time between dad and his newly turned 10-year-old.

My older brother chose New York City. My younger brother would choose Alaska. My pick: the Indianapolis 500.

Mother Nature, as she can be, actually had me make the trip twice due to a rain-out on race day and in those days, the race was pushed to the following weekend. So my dad kept his word and we flew back out to Indy and I was treated to a great race, with Bobby Rahal taking the win.

I was awestruck. I not only knew that I made the right choice for my “trip,” but I knew that I had to get back there. And not for a seat in the grandstands, no, from that point on I was determined to return to Indy in the seat of a cockpit.

It took 20 years, but in 2006 I finally made my Indy 500 debut. It was a dream come true. In each of my six starts at the famed Brickyard, I’ve had to pinch myself.

Every May, when I make my trek from California to Indianapolis, I think about those trips I took with my father back in 1986. This May was no different, and as soon as I arrived I was consumed by it all once again. The sports cars and broadcast booth can wait. This is Indy.

Sunday, I’ll be making my seventh attempt at a run for victory and the chance to plant my face firmly on the Borg-Warner Trophy. I’ve still got the passion of a 10-year-old boy, and now it’s matched with the experience/determination of a veteran.

What’s more, I’m driving an iconic livery. Mark Donohue made the Sunoco colors synonymous with the winner’s circle at Indy in 1972. Now I’m looking to do the same, at least before DreamWorks Animation does.

“Turbo,” the new 3D animated comedy debuts in theaters on July 17 and my No. 60 Sunoco Chevy is visibly featured in the  DreamWorks film. I’d just like to make the car an Indy 500 winner before its run on the big screen.

Reuniting with Panther Racing this month has been fantastic. The team has given me a great car and I’ve been impressed with their operation. Their focus and preparation has not only served me well, but has been a benefit to my sponsors, including Sunoco, Turbo, Bowers & Wilkins, EcoDrink, Robert Graham, Motegi Racing, Heelys, and Sargent & Lundy.

Could 2013 be “my year,” like it was in 1986? Time will tell, but one thing is for certain, the 10 year-old in me is about to get another hell of a ride around this place.

You can follow Townsend Bell on Twitter @TownsendBell99.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR America: Take a spin around Martinsville Speedway

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman took a spin around Martinsville Speedway in the NBC race simulator to show why the paper-clip shaped track can be extremely difficult.

  2. NHRA stunner: Jimmy Prock out as John Force’s crew chief

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT

    Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Jimmy Prock, now former crew chief for John Force. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    In a stunning move that could potentially threaten his bid for a record-extending 17th NHRA Funny Car championship, John Force announced Wednesday that veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock has resigned, effective immediately.

  3. Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick will swap crews at Stewart-Haas (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

    KurtDanica Getty Images

    Crew chiefs, road crews for Nos. 10 and 41 Stewart-Haas Racing cars will swap starting at Texas.

  4. Statement from Caterham provides unclear future for team’s plans (UPDATED)

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    More murky messaging from Leafield as Caterham’s future hangs in the balance.

  5. Drag racer Ron Capps doesn’t let hurricane stop Hawaii appearance

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA, Teresa Long) AP

    When you drive a car that produces nearly 10,000 horsepower and reaches speeds approaching 330 mph, a hurricane with wind speeds over 100 mph is nothing. That was the case Sunday for NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

  6. Ken Block, Matthew Wilson to return to WRC in Spain this weekend

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    FIA World Rally Championship Mexico - Day Two Getty Images

    Ken Block, Matthew Wilson make WRC returns for this weekend’s Rally Spain.

  7. Will NHRA Funny Car legend John Force reveal new sponsor and manufacturer today?

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/NHRA) AP

    Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force is expected to make a major announcement concerning John Force Racing later Tuesday afternoon.

  8. NASCAR: Kurt Busch’s new 2015 paint scheme unveiled

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Kurt Busch’s 2015 paint scheme adds more red.

  9. Lotus begins deal with jewelry company called Endless

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Qualifying Getty Images

    Lotus will have a new sponsor for Austin that’s beginning, but called Endless.

  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. featured in new concussion awareness initiative (VIDEO)

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT

    DaleJrDega AP

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be featured for UPMC campaign that seeks to change the conversation about concussions.

  11. Sam Michael to leave McLaren at year’s end

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    Sam-Michael-McL Getty Images

    Sam Michael to leave McLaren at year’s end, the team confirms.

  12. Here to stay: Keselowski vows that he won’t be run out of the sport

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Geico 500 Getty Images

    The championship contender talks about his reputation during a Monday night appearance at Texas Motor Speedway.

  13. NASCAR AMERICA: Pressure mounts with four races to go in Chase (VIDEO)

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

    As NASCAR AMERICA’s Kyle Petty explains, the new Chase format has created something that NASCAR hasn’t seen before.

  14. NASCAR AMERICA: Jeff Gordon’s “Drive For Five” continues at Martinsville (VIDEO)

    Oct 21, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A ninth Martinsville win on Sunday would put Gordon into the Championship Race at Homestead. Check out his interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Jason Weigandt about his success at M’Ville and more.

  15. Joey Logano says he’s made peace with Danica Patrick over Charlotte wreck

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Logano admits he should’ve given Patrick more space on the race track two weekends ago.

  16. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA talks with “Eliminator 8″ at 5 p.m. ET

    Oct 21, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Credit: NASCAR Credit: NASCAR

    Extended interviews with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards also coming up on today’s episode of NASCAR AMERICA.

  17. Company that builds Caterham’s F1 cars put into administration

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Practice Getty Images

    A source tells Reuters that the legal action is not expected to impact the racing activities of the team, which is owned by a separate entity.

  18. Martinsville is first chance for Chase’s “lesser names” to punch ticket to Homestead

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards can launch themselves into the Championship at Homestead with a win this weekend.

  19. Kyle Fowler to make Sprint Cup debut this weekend with GO FAS Racing

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    32carMville Getty Images

    Kyle Fowler joins the Sprint Cup grid at Martinsville.

Video from NASCAR America

Pressure mounts with 4 races remaining
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1988)
  2. B. Keselowski (1845)
  3. W. Pitkat (1283)
  4. R. Preece (1251)
  5. R. Newman (1081)