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Townsend Bell confirms Indianapolis 500 entry

Townsend Bell confirmed Thursday that he will enter the Indianapolis 500 with team owner Sam Schmidt.

Bell, who drove for Schmidt in the Indy 500 the last two seasons will attempt to qualify the No. 99 Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports. Schmidt had filed a second entry for the May 27 race, but did not announce a driver at the time.

"Sam was the only person who offered me a job this year, which I am grateful for because it' not easy to find a job right now. There's a lot of guys out there who want to run Indy and can't get a job," Bell told The Associated Press. "But, it's a great fit because Sam is totally committed to winning the race."

Last year, Schmidt's two-car entry was strong in the buildup to the race, and Alex Tagliani was the surprise pole-winner. Bell just missed qualifying on the front row with his teammate, and wound up fourth, on the inside of Row 2.

Bell's race ended with an accident and he finished 26th.

The year before, he qualified 10th and finished 16th driving for Schmidt. His career best finish in five previous Indianapolis 500 starts was fourth, in 2009 driving for KV Racing.

"Townsend is one of those drivers that gets it done at Indy," Schmidt said. "To say we have unfinished business together at Indy may be a cliche, but it is true. We've started our first two races together with legitimate shots at winning. This year should be no different."

Bell will be a teammate to Simon Pagenaud, who drives full-time for Schmidt in the IndyCar Series.

The Schmidt entries will be powered by Honda, and Bell's car will be sponsored by BraunAbility. The company makes wheelchair vans, wheelchair lifts and other mobility accessories.

It's a strong sponsor fit for Schmidt, who was paralyzed when he crashed during a test at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000. The accident left Schmidt a quadriplegic.

Bell, meanwhile, will be busy this month. He's racing in the ALMS Series at Laguna Seca, and that commitment will force him to miss the opening day of Indy 500 practice.

He'll be on site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in time for the second day of practice, and he'll have his work cut out for him in getting familiar with the new IndyCar. He was able to turn 10 or so laps in Pagenaud's car last month during a test at Texas.

"This year is going to be different, I think it's going to take me longer than normal to get comfortable because it is a new car," he said. "Getting in the car at Texas gave me a feel for the general characteristics of the new car, and how I want my seat positioned. So being able to get those laps in will help me shorten the first day jitters."

Bell will also be busy in his other role as pit reporter for NBC Sports. He said he'll be doing interviews for the network leading into race day.

"It's interesting, I get to race the Indianapolis 500, I am doing the full season of ALMS for the championship, I go to IndyCar and do the TV thing," said Bell, "so from a job standpoint it's tapas style — small plates. Well, small plates makes a meal."