TUDOR United SportsCar Championship driver, Indy 500 specialist and Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Townsend Bell is adding another duty to his busy schedule with the launch of "What'Cha Got" on ESPN2.
"I came up with this idea driving to Las Vegas a year ago for a broadcast job, and was thinking of a way my niche expertise and passion could be shared outside the small audience of IndyCar and sports car lovers," Bell said. "My fundamental belief is everybody, regardless of your demographic, likes cars, but not as much as a racing fan does, so I wanted to find a way to put a high-performance automotive platform together with sports stars that would bring these worlds together."
In addition to a lifestyle segment, the driving-themed show pits Bell against fellow athletes in a series of fast-paced features that tests the skills of each star behind the wheel of a Lamborghini.
"The idea is we take traditional sports athletes, profile what they drive each day—see what they've got—and find out about their love for their cars, and then we take them to their stadium and find out what they've got in a different discipline in an Autocross setup to test their skills in a Lamborghini supercar," Bell (shown below at Indy) explained.
"They set their best time, and we do that each week with a different athlete—what'cha got at home and what'cha got on the track—and the player with the fastest time at the end of the season wins the Lambo. It happens pretty fast—each episode is two-and-a-half minutes in length—and it's pretty fun."
Bell says the first season of the show will focus on Major League Soccer stars, including Sporting Kansas City's Graham Zusi (below).
"We're beginning with MLS, and doing the show with Continental Tire; they're a partner in the TUDOR Championship and I race on their tires, and they're also a sponsor of Major League Soccer, so that's a great fit," he noted. "The best part for me, and hopefully for the viewers, is seeing guys who've spent their entire lives focusing on being the best soccer players they can be, and throwing them into a different situation that's highly competitive, but where they're out of their element.
"One of the things I wasn't expecting, but was fascinating to watch, was how good their footwork was in the Lambo. It's obvious when you think about it, but I didn't expect those small motor skills they've perfected with their feet to translate so quickly to using the brake and throttle to control the car on their runs through the Autocross course."
Future seasons of "What'Cha Got" could include players from the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
"It makes you think about the other motor skills athletes in different disciplines have perfected and how they'd translate to competitive driving, and that's something we want to explore," Bell continued. "When you're in a tight course in a powerful car, it's all about instincts and physical control—coordination of your hands and feet, and as a professional racer, these are the tools of the trade—you almost take them for granted, so I got a kick out of how adaptable some athletic skills are across all sports. We hope to see how football, basketball, and baseball players fit into that dynamic."
The first season of Bell's series covers a half-dozen players and makes its debut this Sunday, Oct. 19, during ESPN FC on ESPN2. The season finale airs during ESPN FC on Sunday, Dec. 7.
"The first round is six Major League Soccer players, three from the Western conference and three from the east," Bell remarked. "We've got a LA Galaxy player, a FC Dallas player and a player from Chivas USA from the west. In the east, we have players from Sporting Kansas City, Chicago Fire and Houston Dynamo. The goal is to have the concept live across multiple sports, and MLS is a great place to start with its big growth on ESPN and Fox. It starts this Sunday on ESPN FC, which is like SportsCenter for soccer, and runs every Sunday after through the MLS Cup final in December."