INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, May 13, 2012 – After competing in a sports car race Saturday in California, driver Townsend Bell flew all night to arrive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 10 a.m. Sunday to begin his preparation for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Bell will be behind the wheel of a car prepared by Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) for a third consecutive year. It’s a combination that has proven to be consistent – and fast. He qualified fourth in 2011 and 10th in 2010.
In 2012, the driver from San Louis Obispo, Calif, is driving the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. The program is a sister team to SSM’s full-time driver Simon Pagenaud and the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
After doing a final seat fitting and then completing the mandatory IMS physical, Bell took to the Speedway for some an initial practice run. He said getting up to speed is just what he needed after a night of traveling.
“It’s a good way to fix of the jet lag, running around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Bell. “It always feels good no matter what you feel like before you get out there. It was great to just get a few laps in this new car. It was my first time on the track with this car. Everything went according to plan. Now we’re going to go back and talk about it and start tweaking.”
Bell said that despite this being his first IZOD IndyCar Series race in 2012 and the first time racing the new INDYCAR formula, familiarity with the SSM crew and engineers makes the acclimation process smooth.
“Arriving to see all the same faces doing all the same jobs for the third year in a row is a beacon of comfort in a sea of unknown,” said Bell.
Bell only turned eight laps today around Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, but he quickly found speed. His best lap was 41.8522 seconds at 215.042 mph.
Pagenaud, in his second day of practice, turned a total of 45 laps with his best lap being 41.5084 seconds at 216.824 mph. The Frenchman turned a total of 45 laps Sunday.
Andretti/AFS Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra topped the Sunday speed chart with a lap of 40.6272 seconds at 221.526 mph. He was followed by rookie Bryan Clauson with a lap of 40.6922 seconds at 221.173 mph. The rest of the top-five consisted of Clauson’s teammate Josef Newgarden (221.158 mph), Scott Dixon (220.829 mph) and Justin Wilson (220.615).
A total of 31 drivers turned 1,138 laps during the six-hour practice session Sunday. Practice resumes Monday from noon to 6 p.m. ET.
Notes and Quotes:
Simon Pagenaud on having Townsend Bell as a teammate: “Obviously, I’m a rookie. I can tell you what I need to make the car go faster, but it’s always good to rely on someone like Townsend who has experience here and has been running well. It’s reassuring to be honest because he seems to be saying the same things I’m saying. So, that is good. The whole team is doing a great job. We’re only working on race trim right now. The speed is there. I feel more and more confident every day. I learn something every time I go out.”
Townsend Bell on adjusting to the new IZOD IndyCar Series car: “All of the years of muscle memory I have has just been totally reset. This car feels totally different. I was just telling him (Simon) my initial impressions of the car and what I like around here in terms of a feel. So, I’m just trying to offer a little bit of feedback so he can understand what I want to get to in terms of a setup. I think it’s going to be great working with him. He’s a smart guy and pays attention to the details.”