SSM's Townsend Bell Indy 500 Race Report

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Mid-Race Accident Ends Bell’s Strong Run
Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Finishes Disappointing 26th in Indianapolis 500

Townsend Bell started fourth and was in the top-five for much of the first three-quarters of the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, but an accident following a restart on lap 158 of 200 caused him to finish a disappointing 26th.

The driver of the No. 99 Herbalife24 Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) was not injured.

After a caution on lap 148 due to an accident involving his SSM teammate and pole-winner Alex Tagliani, Bell relinquished his sixth-place position and headed to pit lane for four fresh Firestone tires and fuel.

The Herbalife24 car was competitive here, running up front.

Townsend Bell

Several cars opted to stay out and gamble on fuel and because of that, Bell was forced to restart 11th when the green flag flew on lap 155. It was the furthest back all day that Bell had restarted, but he managed to gain two positions in two laps and appeared to be charging through the field.

Unfortunately, he would not complete another lap as his Herbalife24 car made contact with the car of Ryan Briscoe as the duo entered turn one on lap 158. Both cars slid to the outside of the track together and made contact with the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall at the exit of the first turn. Both machines then slid to a stop connected to each other against the outside retaining wall in the short chute. Briscoe, like Bell, was not injured.

“It’s a shame,” said Bell who is only scheduled to compete in the Indianapolis 500 this season. “The Herbalife24 car was competitive here, running up front. I’ll have to see the replay, but it seems like somebody hit me in my left rear, I think it was Ryan (Briscoe). I saved it in turn one and whammo, it got me again and pinned me in the wall. I hate to end the race this way. We were running strong and had a top-five car, so to bring the car home in a dumpster is pretty disappointing.”

After having both SSM cars in the top-10 for much of the event, team owner Sam Schmidt saw both of his cars head to the garage within 10 laps of each other. Tagliani, who led twice for 20 laps, finished 28th after completing only 147 trips around the 2.5-mile oval.

“They dug all month,” Schmidt said. “The 77 (Tagliani) and 99 (Bell) worked really well together and had fast cars. Unfortunately, they both got a little out of sequence. We probably should’ve finished at least second or third when all was said and done. You can’t second guess what happens in the race, and that is what this place is all about.”

Townsend Bell, Sam Schmidt Motorsports
Townsend Bell, Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Dan Wheldon won the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in an incredible finish that saw rookie J.R. Hildebrand crash in turn four on the final lap while leading. Wheldon, who was six seconds behind, flew past Hildebrand’s wounded machine to score his second ‘500’ victory. Wheldon, who also won in 2005, drove for Bryan Herta Autosport, which had a technical alliance with SSM throughout the month of May. Neither Wheldon, nor Bryan Herta Autosport, compete full-time in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“At least we got a little piece of that car rolling up on victory circle,” Schmidt said. “It was Brian’s (Herta) turn, and that’s cool.”

Hildebrand finished second, while Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon rounded out the top-five. Oriol Servia, Bertrand Baguette, Tomas Scheckter, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were seven caution periods for 40 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.

The next event on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule is the June 11 Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. The event begins at 8 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by VERSUS.

-source: tsc/ssm

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Series INDYCAR
Tags schmidt, townsend bell