A spin on lap 139 ended a strong performance by driver Townsend Bell at the Bridgestone Potenza 500 on the Twin Ring Motegi oval in Motegi, Japan.

Bell, who was making his first start in Japan, was having his best race of the 2002 FedEx Championship Series season prior to the incident. Starting from the tenth spot he was on the move from the opening lap. Getting strong pit work from his Visteon/Patrick Racing crew the rookie from California quickly moved into the top-five and was as high as third at the halfway point of the 201-lap race.

On about lap 115 Bell, who was still running in third, tapped the wall causing some damage to the #20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Bridgestone car. He managed to keep going, but lost one position dropping to fourth place. When Tony Kanaan fell out of the race, Bell moved back into third place where he remained until his fourth pit stop on lap 130. Some extra time was required during the stop to remove a damaged wheel nut and make a wing change, so Bell rejoined the race in sixth place. From the beginning of the stint the car was oversteering (loose) and nine laps later Bell spun in Turn #3 slamming into the wall. He was taken to the Medical Centre, but later released. Based on the team's strategy and his driving performance to that point, if not for the incident, a podium finish was all but certain.

"I hit the wall earlier and after that it was very difficult to drive the Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Bridgestone car," Bell explained. "I managed to defend my position and make it to the next pit stop, but we had a problem getting a damaged wheel nut off and then we lost some more time making a wing adjustment. The Visteon/Patrick Racing crew did a great job and I got back out in reasonably good position. Unfortunately, it would have required taking the car back to the garage to get it 100% right after the earlier hit. The Visteon/Patrick Racing Toyota Bridgestone car was very loose and going into Turn #3 the back end just swung around. I caught it once, but I was up in the gray area of the track and when the back end broke loose a second time I just couldn't catch it," Bell said.

"It's a shame. The Visteon/Patrick Racing team was having a great race. The crew did a tremendous job in the pits, Mr. Patrick and Jim McGee had a solid strategy, the Toyota engine was strong and up until the first brush with the wall the car was running unbelievably well. Mr. Patrick has been very patient with me as I go through this learning curve in Champ Cars. I know he is excited that we are running fast and passing cars, now it is up to me to finish races and produce top-five results," Bell concluded.

The Bridgestone Potenza 500 was Bell's fifth Champ Car start and third on an oval. The 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Champion made his CART debut with Visteon/Patrick Racing in 2001 driving two oval events. Starting from the back of the field, because qualifying was cancelled, Bell finished 13th at Eurospeedway in Lausitz, Germany then earned his first CART championship point with a 12th place showing at Rockingham, England. In the first three races of the 2002 season the resident of San Luis Obispo, California has qualified in the top-ten all three times and, with the exception of the first race, run well until falling out of the competition. In the season opening Tecate Telmex Grand Prix of Monterrey, a road course, he started ninth and finished 19th after a first lap incident knocked him from the competition. Then at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a street circuit, Bell qualified a CART career best fifth, but finished 15th when he became entangled with Alex Tagliani.

Next up for Visteon/Patrick Racing is a test on the Milwaukee Mile May 6-7. The next race will be the Miller Lite 250 also at the Milwaukee Mile on May 31-June 2.