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.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.