IRL Teleconference Townsend Bell and Thiago Medeiros July 20, 2004 THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Indy Racing League's weekly teleconference. Today's teleconference features driver Thiago Medeiros from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series...
Townsend Bell and Thiago Medeiros
July 20, 2004
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the Indy Racing League's weekly teleconference. Today's teleconference features driver Thiago Medeiros from the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and driver Townsend Bell from the IndyCar Series.
Townsend, welcome to the call. Thank you for joining us. Townsend joined Panther Racing at the beginning of the month, got into the Dallara Chevrolet for the first time at Kansas Speedway and was able to qualify seventh. I know we've talked to you about it a couple times already, but can you give us a little recap about what you were doing when the call came from Panther, how the deal came together so quickly?
TOWNSEND BELL: I was in California sort of relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. John Barnes from the team called, asked me to come to Indy (Indianapolis) right away. I jumped on the plane, first available flight, and I've been here ever since.
Q: You didn't get a lot of practice time that weekend with all the rain that we had. But you must have felt fairly comfortable in the car right away to go out and qualify seventh.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, I mean, that's the key. The Panther guys do such a good job with the setup. It seems like we've been out three times now, two races, and a test at Michigan, and every time the car rolls off the truck, it's pretty much in the window straightaway. That gives a driver a lot of confidence. So it's made it really easy for me to get up to speed. I still have a lot of little nuances to learn, and that will come with a little more time. But I'm pretty happy with the way things are coming along so far.
Q: You had a really strong performance down in Nashville, qualified 12th, then moved up to finish fifth. How did this weekend compare with that first weekend in a variety of ways? That first race, despite qualifying well, there were some problems with the car throughout the race. Compare the two weekends.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, I mean, the first weekend was a bit of a thrash because we only had three or four days to prepare. But the Panther guys were so organized, by the time I actually got to the track, we had already gotten the seat made, and everything was pretty comfortable with where we were. By the second race, I had had 500 miles under my belt from the Kansas event and, of course, the Michigan test. So when we got to Nashville, I felt we could start working on moving up the grid and working on performance.
Q: You turned in the best finish by the Chevrolet cars. I know the Chevys were up in Michigan recently testing there. What kind of gains are they making on the 3.0-liter engine?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I mean, it's a work in progress, I know. I mean, everybody is working flat out, of course, to try to close the gap. It's not far off really. I mean, you could see in Nashville with a little luck we were able to run, you know, pretty competitive times and hang in there with the top guys, with Toyota and Honda cars.
I think it's very close. If we can just get a bit more, maybe we could win one of these things.
Q: When you come into a series in the middle of a season like you have here, I am imagining there aren't a lot of pressures on you regarding the point standings, making a charge for the leaders and that. What kind of expectations and pressures do you put on yourself for the rest of the season?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I mean, I think everybody's pretty realistic. Obviously, I'd never driven an IRL car prior to getting in in Kansas on Saturday morning. They know it's going to take some time to get up to speed. So we're trying to be patient. Really, as long as everybody's realistic about the situation, which they are, I think I the results will come. But I told the guys, I said, 'Look, I don't want to be viewed as a magic bullet where all of a sudden I jump in and the team's winning. It's a group effort. We'll put one foot in front of the other.' I think we've done that so far. It's been a very comfortable start to my IRL career.
Q: Next stop on the circuit is Milwaukee this coming weekend. I know a lot of the other drivers in the series, despite the fact that the IRL is going there for the first time, they've been there before with other series. Have you raced there before?
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah. I raced there twice in Indy Lights. I won there in Indy Lights in 2001. Then in CART, I raced there, as well. I don't think the track's changed a whole lot. It's a fun place to go. We run maximum downforce there with the IRL package, so that makes it a lot of fun, too, because the speeds are pretty high and you're driving the car quite a bit.
Q: As far as some long-term goals, now that you're in the IRL, do you start looking ahead to next year and the Indianapolis 500? For a lot of race car drivers, that is a lifelong dream. Is it a dream of yours to run at the Speedway there in Indianapolis?
TOWNSEND BELL: I came here to Indy when I was 10 years old, 1986. Bobby Rahal won his first 500. That was my first exposure to IndyCar racing. Indianapolis was always the destination. I'll be thrilled to be there next year if it comes together.
Q: Nashville, leading into Milwaukee. A fifth-place finish in just your second outing, you and the team have got to be fairly pleased with that.
TOWNSEND BELL: Yeah, we really are. I mean, I think it's been since the first race since they had a top-five finish. They've had a lot of bad luck, weird circumstances. They've been quick everywhere, it just hasn't come together. I think it's a bit of the monkey off the back a little bit. It felt great to give the guys a good finish. They gave me a great car and did a great job in the pits.
Q: You said a minute ago you made sure they knew at the beginning you were not the magic bullet. In the second outing, to take a top five, they've got to feel there's a little magic?
TOWNSEND BELL: Maybe just a little bit (laughter). I guess the point I was trying to make is just like -- I'm sure you guys have heard plenty in racing, there's never any one magic solution. It's a culmination of thousands of little things. The driver is certainly a big part of that. Everything has to work in harmony. You know, this last weekend, still had some challenges. We had a weight jacker fail during the race, a few other little problems. But if you can limit the problems and have everything work as harmoniously as possible, that's how you get to the front. So we're making progress. But, again, we're not quite there yet.
Q: The fact that you have, under race conditions, a lot of laps at Milwaukee, for some drivers and some teams, this may give you a little advantage. Do you think it also helps the Panther team because they've never been there under race conditions?
TOWNSEND BELL: Well, I think having a two-car team, you know, really makes a big difference. This is the first time that the Panther guys have had two cars for a full season. So there's a lot of, I think, sort of chemistry that's quickly developing, you know, both with me and my teammate and the whole team. You know, I think that's probably a big thing we're working on right now, is just trying to get everything synchronized with a two-car team.
Q: What do you expect out of yourself in the IRL?
TOWNSEND BELL: Just, you know, no different than any other place I've raced. Just to contribute as much to the overall performance of the team and then stay focused, give it maximum effort. You know, you hope when you do that, with a little luck, that the results will come. I mean, Panther's a winning organization. They know how to win races and win championships. They're a team that's focused on winning. That's our objective, like any race team. I think the future looks pretty promising there.
Q: Did you race the (Toyota) Atlantics Series?
TOWNSEND BELL: No. I kind of came up through the Skip Barber system, then I raced Indy Lights for a couple years, then went to CART. I was in Europe last year in Formula 3000, then back here now.
THE MODERATOR: Townsend, thank you again for taking the time to join us this afternoon.
TOWNSEND BELL: Sure, my pleasure.
THE MODERATOR: We wish you the best at Milwaukee and the rest of the season.
TOWNSEND BELL: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today on the IRL weekly teleconference.