Skip to content

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

May 24, 2013, 4:09 PM EST

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. Ricciardo expecting good battle with Kvyat next year

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ENG-SILVERSTONE Getty Images

    Daniel Ricciardo is looking forward to racing alongside Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull next year, believing that the young Russian will pose a good challenge during his sophomore F1 season. Kvyat made his Formula 1 debut at the beginning of 2014, but has been fast-tracked to Red Bull for 2015 following Sebastian Vettel’s decision to leave the…

  2. Hulkenberg’s Porsche drive a great showcase for modern versatility

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:15 AM EST

    HulkPorsche2 Getty Images

    Nico Hulkenberg and Porsche: a win for both the WEC and F1 in a rare moment of motorsport unity for the common good.

  3. F1 2014 Driver Review: Daniel Ricciardo

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    What a year it was for Daniel Ricciardo in his first season at Red Bull.

  4. Hamilton: Second F1 title takes career another step forward

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-BRITAIN-HAMILTON Getty Images

    Talks about a new contract with Mercedes should be brought forwards after title win.

  5. F1 2014 Driver Review: Nico Rosberg

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Austria F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    A worthy title contender, Nico Rosberg enjoyed his most successful season to date in 2014.

  6. F1 2014 Driver Review: Lewis Hamilton

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Lewis Hamilton AP

    2014 saw the Briton become a two-time F1 world champion, winning 11 races.

  7. Raikkonen confident 2015 will hold better things for Ferrari

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    A new regime will come into force at Maranello next season following a disappointing campaign in 2014.

  8. Susie Wolff promoted to test driver at Williams for 2015

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:00 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Practice Getty Images

    British racer will remain with Williams for 2015 after becoming the first woman to take part in a grand prix weekend session in 22 years over the summer.

  9. Famed NHRA team owner Don Schumacher undergoes cancer surgery

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:46 PM EST

    Don Schumacher and daughter Megan. (Photo courtesy ShoeRacing.com) Don Schumacher and daughter Megan. (Photo courtesy ShoeRacing.com)

    NHRA team owner Don Schumacher underwent surgery Wednesday for early-stage skin cancer.

  10. Is the world ready for another Rowdy Busch? Kyle, Samantha hint a baby boy is on the way

    Nov 27, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    NASCAR star Kyle Busch and wife Samantha dropped a very big hint that their first child may be a boy.

  11. IndyCar’s Graham Rahal, NHRA’s Courtney Force engaged

    Nov 27, 2014, 7:28 PM EST

    (Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage) (Photo: Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)

    IndyCar driver Graham Rahal and NHRA driver Courtney Force announced their engagement Thursday in Venice, Italy.

  12. Police seek cause of death of race fan found near Talladega

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:57 PM EST

    Theresa Benn (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department) Theresa Benn (Photo courtesy Lincoln, Ala. Police Department)

    Police continue to investigate the cause of death of Theresa Benn, who had been missing more than a month before her body was found last week near Talladega Superspeedway.

  13. MST exclusive: BK Racing co-owner Anthony Marlowe apologizes for Cole Whitt/David Ragan tweet controversy

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:23 PM EST

    (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter) (Photo courtesy Anthony Marlowe/Twitter)

    BK Racing minority owner Anthony Marlowe offers a public apology to MotorSportsTalk on his inadvertent tweet of Cole Whitt replacing David Ragan in the No. 34 car for 2015.

  14. Give thanks: NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes shows ‘progress’ in cancer battle

    Nov 27, 2014, 2:16 PM EST

    Steve Byrnes Steve Byrnes

    Steve Byrnes of Fox Sports gave friends and family a promising Thanksgiving update about his battle with Stage 4 head-and-neck cancer.

  15. Hulkenberg confirmed for Porsche LMP1 at Spa and Le Mans

    Nov 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Previews Getty Images

    Hulkenberg gets an LMP1 opportunity with Porsche at Spa and Le Mans next season.

  16. What we’re thankful for in the motorsports world, 2014

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Irwin Tools Night Race Getty Images

    What we’re thankful across the wide spectrum of motorsports in 2014.

  17. Spend Black Friday doing a few laps on Charlotte Motor Speedway

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:01 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Terry Renna) AP

    If you’re in the Charlotte area and want to have a great Black Friday experience, head on over to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where for a donation, you can drive on the actual racetrack.

  18. Sam Hornish Jr. has much to be thankful for: new home, renewed Sprint Cup hopes with Richard Petty Motorsports

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:56 PM EST

    (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

    Sam Hornish Jr. has a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving, most notably a new ride and a new lease on his Sprint Cup driving life with Richard Petty Motorsports.

  19. NBCSN presents 14-hour ‘MECUM MARATHON’ on Thanksgiving Day

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:40 PM EST

    mecum dealmakers

    NBCSN will present a 14-hour ‘Mecum Marathon’ starting Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.

  20. Simon Pagenaud’s Ayrton Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned off

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Getty Images

    Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 Senna tribute helmet to be auctioned for Ayrton Senna Foundation.

Video from NASCAR America

Kevin Harvick's well deserved Sprint Cup
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1596)
  2. J. McMurray (1588)
  3. T. Stewart (1533)
  4. J. Johnson (1042)
  5. A. Dillon (1018)