Townsend Bell confirms he’s running the Indy 500 again this year

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Townsend Bell took some time during NBC Sports Network’s broadcast of the IZOD IndyCar Series race in Sao Paulo, Brazil to confirm he’ll be back in a car for the Indianapolis 500.

Bell will race as a teammate to JR Hildebrand at Panther Racing, with Oriol Servia an unofficial teammate as well in the Panther DRR Chevrolet. Bell’s entry will feature sponsorship from Sunoco and Dreamworks’ new animated film “Turbo,” which premieres in theaters July 17.

“It’s really exciting to be back with Panther,” Bell said. “I even wore my throwback uniform from when I was with Panther in 2004 [for the seat fitting]!”

Bell raced with Panther in 2004 and 2005 and made his Indianapolis 500 debut with Vision Racing in 2006. He has three top-10 finishes in six starts, with a best of fourth in 2009 (KV Racing Technology) and ninth last year for Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports. His best start came with Schmidt in 2011, in fourth place.

One of the busiest men in racing this year, Bell is also serving as an analyst for Stadium Super Trucks coverage on the NBC Sports Network and racing a Ferrari F458 Italia for the West/Alex Job Racing/Boardwalk team in the American Le Mans Series’ GT class.

The move brings the number of confirmed cars to 32, with Buddy Rice expected in a third Schmidt car for 33, and five other drivers – Bryan Clauson, Buddy and Jaques Lazier, Jay Howard and Katherine Legge – reportedly in the frame for additional seats if teams have the ability to field extra cars and if they can scrounge together enough backing.

Expect one, possibly two of those five extras to actually materialize in a seat.

Alonso enjoys maiden Toyota LMP1 test, ends as second-fastest rookie

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Fernando Alonso took his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 by testing an LMP1 car for the first time with Toyota in Bahrain on Sunday.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso has made no secret of his desire to race at Le Mans, having signed a deal to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January as preparation for a possible entry at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota confirmed after Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain that Alonso would be testing its TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car in the traditional rookie test on Sunday.

Alonso was given the car for the bulk of the five-hour test day following an initial shakedown by Sebastien Buemi, completing 113 laps in total – more than any other driver – and posting a best lap time of 1:43.013.

“It was a great day,” Alonso said. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.

“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”

However, Alonso did not finish as the fastest rookie, with that honor instead going to Pietro Fittipaldi, who was the final driver to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of the closure of the German marque’s LMP1 program.

Alonso is now set to head back to Europe before a test in United Autosports’ LMP2 car on Tuesday as part of his Daytona preparation, before then returning to the Middle East for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.