Report: Townsend Bell, Buddy Rice land Indy 500 rides

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A report from SPEED.com says that NBC Sports Network analyst Townsend Bell (pictured) and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice have both landed rides for this year’s edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

According to the report, Bell has joined up with Panther Racing for the “500” after securing sponsorship from Dreamworks’ upcoming Indy 500-themed film “Turbo.” He had appeared set to run in a third car for Sam Schmidt’s team at Indy, but because of Schmidt’s status as a Honda-powered outfit and a pact between Chevrolet and Dreamworks, Bell has instead migrated to a second program at the Bowtie-powered Panther camp alongside J.R. Hildebrand. He finished ninth in last year’s race for Schmidt.

As for Rice, he is expected to be the one to join forces with Schmidt regulars Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier at the Brickyard this year. He last raced at IMS in 2011, finishing 18th for Panther.

Pending official announcements from the two teams, the additions of Bell and Rice to the field will put the car count at the magic number of 33. On that note, the SPEED.com report also mentions possible entries for 1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier and USAC driver Bryan Clauson, who would be aiming for a second “500” start after driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing in last year’s event.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.