Indianapolis 500 Preview: Townsend Bell

Photo credit: Michael Levitt (via IndyCar Media)

#99 BraunAbility Dallara-Honda, Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports

Born: April 19, 1975

Home: San Francisco, California

2011 RESULTS: For the second consecutive year, Bell partnered with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to run at Indianapolis. He posted an impressive fourth place qualifying run from out of nowhere, but after a lap 158 crash with Ryan Briscoe their day ended early. Bell was listed 26th in the final running order.

CAREER BEST: Schmidt helped put together the Bryan Herta Autosport-run Dallara-Honda that the late Dan Wheldon took to victory lane last year, after taking pole with Alex Tagliani. As for Bell, his best Indy 500 finish came in 2009 with KV Racing Technology, where he finished an unexpected fourth.

OUTLOOK: Townsend Bell is as busy as he’s been in years. After taking a pit reporter job for the NBC Sports Network and a Lotus-backed ride for Alex Job Racing in the American Le Mans Series, he returns to Indianapolis for the sixth time after posting a series of respectable runs. For the third year in a row, Sam Schmidt will hire the American to pilot the #99 car, his Indianapolis-only entry. This year, Bell doesn’t even have to bring the sponsorship; BraunAbility, makers of wheelchair lifts for vehicles, has signed on to back Schmidt, who is himself a quadriplegic after a 2000 accident.

Of all of the drivers who generally make Indianapolis-only runs, Bell has proven over the past few years to be the most consistent. He’s qualified in the top 10 in each of the past two years and in the top 15 on four of five attempts. As for the lone exception, in 2009, he worked his way up from his 24th place qualifying spot to finish fourth. It’ll be no shock if Bell, once again, puts together a decent run at Indianapolis. And it’ll be no shock if, once again, fans of the sport lament that he’s never had the chance to run a full schedule.

– Chris Leone


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