SPEED reports that 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice (LEFT) and veteran Townsend Bell have secured rides for the upcoming Indianapolis 500, with Sam Schmidt's team and Panther Racing, respectively.
Rice, who last raced at Indy with Panjther two years ago, will join Simon Pagenaud and rookie Tristan Vautier with Schmidt's group, according to the report, while Bell will join a three-car squad at Panther/DRR with J.R. Hildebrand and Oriol Servia, the latter making his final appearance before the Dreyer & Reinbold entry is placed on hiatus.
Neither deal has been confirmed by the respective teams, although SPEED reports Bell's deal is expected to be officially announced this weekend.
Earlier this week, Pippa Mann confirmed plans to race at Indy with Dale Coyne Racing, while Buddy and Jaques Lazier, as well as Bryan Clauson, are all thought to be close to deals. Kurt Busch will test Andretti Autosport's car next week with a view to possibly making a run, and Jay Howard – who apparently had hoped for the deal SPEED reports has now gone to Rice – remains hopeful of securing a drive as well. If all these programs come together, there could be some five cars vying for the final sport in the 33-car Indy field.