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.
One of the Road to Indy’s most talented young drivers will climb another step up the development system ladder this season.
Kyle Kirkwood, the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 champion, has signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in the 2020 Indy Lights season. Kirkwood will drive the No. 28 car for the reigning championship team.
A native of Jupiter, Florida, 21-year-old Kirkwood has been incredibly successful in junior formulas over the last few years. He won the F4 US Championship 2017 and won both the F3 Americas and USF2000 titles in 2018.
Driving for RP Motorsport Racing, Kirkwood won 9 of 16 races in his maiden Indy Pro 2000 season last year, allowing him to win his fourth championship in three years and earn the Road to Indy scholarship.
“We are very excited about the addition of Kyle to our Indy Lights program,” Andretti Autosport CEO and Chairman Michael Andretti said. “We’ve followed Kyle’s career from when he started in 2018 with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and have been impressed with his success in every race that led to his Indy Pro 2000 Championship last year. As a championship-caliber team, Kyle displays the desire and talent that we look for in our drivers and are excited to see him hit the track for the 2020 Indy Lights season.”
Kirkwood previously drove for Andretti in a two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway in December. He will make his official debut for the team in the season-opening doubleheader at St. Petersburg on March 14-15.
“I am ecstatic that I can now say I am competing in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport this season,” Kirkwood said. “They have established a winning program in Indy Lights and we plan on carrying that reputation throughout 2020.
“We are a fantastic match for each other and our Sebring test in December proved that.”
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