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Bell To Make Indy Run For Schmidt Pelfrey

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 4 2012

Townsend Bell will attempt to drive in the Indy 500 for Sam Schmidt.

RacinToday.com

Townsend Bell will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in a car prepared by the team owned by former driver Sam Schmidt. In 2012, Bell will drive the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.

Bell will be a teammate to Frenchman Simon Pagenaud who drives the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car in the IZOD IndyCar Series. It will be Pagenaud’s first attempt at qualifying for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Pagenaud currently sits fifth in the IndyCar points championship.

“Speed and consistency win the Indianapolis 500,” said Bell. “Returning to Indy with Sam and his team for the third year in a row will ensure I have both those ingredients again in 2012. For the past two years, my guys have provided me a fast race car, and I know the No 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports car will give me another shot at winning.”

In 2011, Bell nearly qualified on the Front Row for the Indianapolis 500. His four-lap speed average of 226.887 mph was the fourth-fastest and put him on the inside of Row 2, right behind his SSM teammate and pole-sitter Alex Tagliani. His day ended early with an accident on lap 157.

“Townsend is one of those drivers that gets it done at Indy, and I am excited to have him driving the No. 99 BraunAbility car this May,” said Schmidt. “To say we have unfinished business together at Indy may be a cliché, but it is true. We’ve started our first two races together with legitimate shots at winning. This year should be no different.”

In 2010, Bell again qualified in the top-10 and raced as high as fifth place late in the race before a penalty pushed him back to a 16th-place finishing position. His performance in the 2009 Indy 500 is proof he comes to Indianapolis each May incredibly fit and ready to race. Starting 24th, the driver from San Luis Obispo, Calif., methodically drove his way through the 33-car field to a fourth-place finish that year, his best in the May classic. The 2012 Indy 500 will be his sixth.

Based in Winamac, Ind., BraunAbility is the primary sponsor of the No. 99 car this year. The company is an industry leader in personal mobility, including the manufacturing of wheelchair vans, wheelchair lifts and other mobility accessories. It is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012 after being founded by Ralph Braun in 1972.

Braun was diagnosed at a young age with spinal muscular atrophy. By age 15, he was unable to walk. Frustrated and constantly exhausted from using his bulky and heavy wheelchair, Braun created the world’s first electric scooter in his cousin’s Indiana farm shop. He went on to outfit an old postal Jeep with hand controls and a hydraulic lift so he could have safe transportation to and from work. He has been designing accessible vehicles ever since.

Schmidt was injured in a testing crash at Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000, just a few months after earning his first IndyCar victory. The accident left Schmidt a quadriplegic, but it hardly slowed him. He will enter six cars in races in May at the Speedway. In addition to the two cars entered in the Indianapolis 500, SSM will have four Firestone Indy Lights cars racing in the Firestone Freedom 100.

With five championships, SSM is the most successful team in the history of INDYCAR’s Firestone Indy Lights series. SSM won the 2004 championship with Thiago Medeiros, the 2006 title with Jay Howard, the 2007 title with Alex Lloyd, the 2010 title with J.K. Vernay and the 2011 title with Josef Newgarden.

In 2011, SSM also returned to the IZOD IndyCar Series full time. The team saw immediate success by winning the pole position for the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, May 4 2012
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