NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 17, 2004 - Townsend Bell rang up a fifth-place finish for Chevrolet in the action-packed and accident-filled Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. A good race setup, quick pit work by the Panther Racing team and a...
NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 17, 2004 - Townsend Bell rang up a fifth-place finish for Chevrolet in the action-packed and accident-filled Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. A good race setup, quick pit work by the Panther Racing team and a strong Chevy Indy V-8 engine delivered a top-five finish for Bell in only his second IRL race.
"It starts with a great car and a great team," said Bell. "Everybody has been digging deep, Chevrolet and the Menards/Johns Manville team, and they certainly deserved a top-five finish."
A narrow racing groove, an abrasive concrete surface and aggressive driving combined to produce seven caution periods that accounted for 52 laps in the 200-lap race. Three of the six Chevrolet drivers in the 22-car field were sidelined by accidents - Ed Carpenter on lap 60, Tomas Scheckter on lap 108 and Alex Barron on lap 178. All walked away without injury.
"We had a few close calls," Bell reported. "The last 50 laps were busy, and it seemed like all hell broke loose at the end. Some guys were getting aggressive; sometimes it paid off and sometimes it didn't. I kept coaching myself to be patient. I had a really solid car all race, and we kept making changes in the pits. I'm very happy to be in the top five with this team. It's a great start."
Bell and Felipe Giaffone were the only Chevrolet drivers running at the finish. Giaffone brought the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara home in 15th after losing track position under a green-flag pit stop to replace a suspected flat tire.
"It was a shame with the green stop we had to make because the car was feeling really good," Giaffone said. "We short fueled and didn't take tires on the previous yellow to get our lap back and got out ahead of the leader, but then I thought I had a tire going flat when we went green. We had to come in for tires only and it really cost us. We went two laps down late with no one else on our lap. The way I finished tonight was the way I finished during warm-up last night - flat out and it felt really good."
Scheckter encountered the Turn 2 wall after getting into the marbles (worn tire rubber) that built up outside of the racing line.
"I just got a little bit high as someone got inside of me," said Scheckter, who finished 19th. "At this track, once you try to bring it down low and wait for someone to get by, I became a passenger. I was going slow and the car drives itself once it gets high."
Accidents eliminated both of the Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallaras. Ed Carpenter went high in Turn 4 and found the wall while trying to provide racing room for the leaders, while Alex Barron suffered damage to his car's front suspension in a mid-pack melee when the front-runners made contact shortly after a restart on lap 176.
"Vitor Meira went under me going into Turn 3," Carpenter reported. "I was just respecting the leader and giving him a little room, but there is no second groove here. I went a little higher and tried to bring it back down. It just wasn't going to happen."
Mechanical problems on lap 64 sidelined Jaques Lazier in his first drive with Patrick Racing.
"Unfortunately leaving the pits we broke another axle," Lazier explained. "We'll diagnose the problem and find out what's going on. It's very unfortunate because during the last pit stop we made some changes to the car and everything was starting to come to us."
The IRL IndyCar Series will hold its inaugural event at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, July 25. The Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225, the ninth round of the 16-race IndyCar Series, is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on ABC.