Indy 500 stalwart Townsend Bell has landed the best rides of his career as he joins three-time “500” winner Andretti Autosport for the 100th running of the race.
Bell will campaign the #29 Andretti Autosport-Honda, aiming to make his ninth consecutive start and his 10th altogether at the IMS classic.
“We’re really pleased to be able to field a fifth entry for Townsend,” said team owner Andretti. “Even though he is not in the car full-time, Townsend has proven he can quickly get up to speed – he’s shown it’s possible to compete once a year and be competitive.
"We see a lot of promise in his ability and are looking forward to having five cars challenging for a win at the 100th running this May.”
Bell has become one of the most reliable of the one-offs at Indy, his high points being a fourth-place finish for KV Racing in 2009, and a second-row start with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports two years later.
“Driving in the 100th Running of the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport is a great opportunity,” said Bell.
“I think I’ll benefit from being part of a strong multi-car team with a winning pedigree at Indy. This is my ninth-consecutive start and I’m glad it’s all come together the way it has – I'm looking forward to working with Honda again and having the chance to race for one of the best teams in the sport."
Andretti Autosport – Andretti Green Racing in its previous guise – has scored three Indy 500 wins, in 2005 (Dan Wheldon), 2007 (Dario Franchitti) and 2014 (Ryan Hunter-Reay).
The #29 car will be race engineered by Craig Hampson, who served as Kurt Busch's race engineer at Indy in 2014 in the NASCAR star's one-off race. Hampson also guided Sebastien Bourdais to all four of this Champ Car titles, 2004-’07.
No test before Indy 500 practice
Townsend Bell told Motorsport.com that he would not be taking part in next Wednesday’s open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He said: “Frankly I’m more than happy to let the strength and depth of this team shine through, so they go do the open test.
“Watching Montoya during practice this morning, calmly sitting on the pit wall, waiting and watching, you could see he was making sure he had as much information from the other cars before he decided to get in and do a lap here.
“There’s a lot to be said for that same approach to Indianapolis practice, relying on the strength of the other four cars to give you the information. Yes, it takes a day or two to shake the rust off, but I don’t feel I need laps at the track. I’ll trust the team and Honda to give us the best package to start the month and work from there.”
Bell said although Michael Andretti probably chose him for his experience as an Indy veteran, he said he was also hoping to gain a lot from joining the team.
“I’ve never won the race,” he remarked, “whereas Michael has had a driver win it really recently – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014. So I’m coming to the table hoping to contribute but also with an open ear about how I can do a better job.”