Townsend Bell started racing go-karts at the age of 12 and spent the next several years competing in regional and national events. After studying at UC Santa Barbara, he attended a three-day Skip Barber school in 1996 and decided his future was in racing. Armed with ambition and a stack of business cards, he set out to make his dreams a reality.
Bell secured the necessary funding to contest the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Western Championship in 1997 and began his climb up the racing ladder. The wins followed. After Formula Dodge, Bell raced in the Barber Dodge Pro Series, and then leapt into the Indy Lights Championship for two years. It was there that Bell began to draw attention. He finished second in the 2000 championship – only nine points behind winner Scott Dixon – and secured the champion's title in 2001 over Dan Wheldon.
Also in 2001, merely five years since beginning his professional driving career, Bell made his debut at the top rung of U.S. motorsports. He contested a pair of races in the CART FedEx Championship Series driving for Patrick Racing in Germany and England. Both grids were determined by championship standings due to qualifying rainouts and despite starting at the back of the field, Bell managed to score his first points in the series in only his second career start with a 12th-place drive at Rockingham Speedway.
He continued with Patrick Racing in 2002 to contest a nine-race season aboard the Toyota-powered Visteon machine. Despite the lack of a teammate in his rookie campaign, Bell managed to impress with a fourth-place finish at Portland and seventh-place drive at Laguna Seca.
Bell embarked on an overseas foray in 2003 with the championship-winning Arden International team in the 2003 FIA Formula 3000 Championship. Among a strong field that included Formula 1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi and Le Mans star Nicolas Minassian, Bell finished second in the rookie standings and became the first American to score an F3000 podium.
His talents led to limited roles as a test driver for the BAR-Honda and Jaguar Formula 1 teams, and he expanded his dossier off the racetrack by making his television debut as a color commentator for IndyCar Series broadcasts on Europe's Sky Sports.
Bell returned stateside in 2004 to compete in the IndyCar Series with Panther Racing and Chevrolet. Driving the Menards/Johns Manville Racing entry, he finished half of the 10 races entered in the top-10. His best result of fifth was the highest finish for his team that season. He also continued his role as a test driver with BAR-Honda, and expanded his commentary work to include Speed Channel's Formula 1 broadcasts.
He has competed in the Indianapolis 500 eight times from 2006 through 2014, with the last seven starts coming consecutively. Bell has posted a best finish of fourth in 2009 with KV Racing Technology and a best start of fourth in 2011, driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
In 2012, Bell made his professional sports car racing debut with Alex Job Racing, winning the prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring on the first attempt. He has added to his versatility in racing a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Lotus Evora, and Ferrari 458 Italia throughout his sports car career.
In 2014, Bell emulated the Sebring feat by driving to victory in his first Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Level 5 Motorsports. Bell and co-driver Bill Sweedler won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup with AIM Autosport, after finishing first or second in three of the four races in the endurance series. The pairing finished fourth overall in the full season GT Daytona class points.
He is currently competing full-time in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship's GT Daytona class with Scuderia Corsa in a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
He is also a color commentator for NBCSN's IndyCar broadcasts.
- Birthdate: April 19, 1975
- Birthplace: San Francisco, California
- Hometown: San Luis Obispo, California
- Height: 5'11"
- Weight: 165 lbs.
- Family: Wife – Heather
Sons – Jaxon and Jensen
- Interests: Running, cycling, karting