Former Barber Dodge Pro Series and current Dayton Indy Lights racer Townsend Bell already heads into Sunday's finale with one title: Rookie of the Year. That's no small feat but Bell isn't satisfied. He's looking for another one. His strong season...
Former Barber Dodge Pro Series and current Dayton Indy Lights racer Townsend Bell already heads into Sunday's finale with one title: Rookie of the Year. That's no small feat but Bell isn't satisfied. He's looking for another one. His strong season means that he also enters this weekend as a title contender. The remarkable freshman has earned two Indy Lights victories this season; his first at the Miller Lite 200, his second at the Motorola 300. Three second-place finishes helped propel him to the front of the points pack, just four points off the championship pace heading to the finale at Fontana.
Only last season Bell raced to third place in the 1999 Barber Dodge Pro Series championship. In 22 Pro Series starts he amassed, 152 points, one victory (Lime Rock Park, May 1999), one pole (Portland, June 1999) and $60,300 in career earnings.
The Skip Barber News recently caught up with the young Californian and got his impressions on his rookie season in CART Dayton Indy Lights and the road he took to get there. --------------------------------------------------------------
[Skip Barber News]: At the start of the 2000 CART Dayton Indy Lights Series, you were considered an outsider for the championship. You are a pretty confident person, but have your results surprised you at all? [Townsend Bell]: Some people, especially former girlfriends, find me a bit over-confidant at times but I set high expectations for myself with everything I do. I'm a very competitive person by nature and so I'm always consumed with winning. Looking back on my results this year, I tend to focus more on the lowest results and apply what I've learned towards improving for the future.
SBN: In 1999, eight Top-10 finishes and one win helped you to secure third place in the Barber Dodge Pro Series championship. With nine Top-10 finishes this year, including two wins, it's been an almost identical season. What has been the key to your successful transition from Barber Dodge to Indy Lights?
TB: When I was running in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, I had to work at another job to help support myself. Now with the help of DirecPC and Dorricott Racing, I only have one job: racecar driver. This has created the opportunity to spend much more of my time focused on my driving, technical learning, physical training etc. In general, I'm much better prepared when I arrive for a test or race weekend.
SBN: What has working with Dorricott Racing brought to you as a driver?
TB: My relationship with Dorricott Racing has given me the ability to be competitive right away. It took the first three races of the season to figure out how to get the most from the car and set-up but after that we were consistently running in the top-5. I can't thank Dorricott Racing enough for giving me the chance to join their organization as a rookie. It's been a huge plus.
SBN: Does winning Rookie of the Year ease any pressure coming into this final round?
TB: It's a nice title to have but the Indy Lights Championship is what I really want. Hopefully we'll get it this weekend!
SBN: You didn't start racing cars until 1997, so you could say this rise has been fairly meteoric. Yet, you've received relatively little notoriety until recently. Is that in any way a source of motivation for you?
TB: There is no doubt that in order to get to the highest levels of racing that you have to make yourself stand out from the pack at every step along the way. The best way to do that is to win poles, win races and win championships. For better or worse, it's not a popularity contest unless of course the Tecate Girls happen to be nearby.
SBN: What does it mean to you to suddenly be considered one of the hopes for American open-wheel racing?
TB: I think that the USA needs a stronger presence in CART and a presence in Formula One. I think we've got NASCAR and the NHRA covered. There are several young Americans who are trying to break into the major leagues of open-wheel racing. It's a race to see who gets their first.
- George Tamayo