IndyCar — Dark Horses: Jay Howard

It’s been a few years since Englishman Jay Howard has circulated around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in anger and earnest. Since 2011, to be precise, but he returns this year with support from Tony Stewart and Sam Schmidt as part of Stewart’s One Cure program aimed at finding a cure for cancer in both humans and animals.

“We learned that with the One Cure program, cancer treatment breakthroughs are happening through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with both people and pets,” Stewart said. “It perfectly fits with my foundation’s missions to help children and animals. Sam Schmidt represents the very best in an injured racer overcoming adversity, plus we share the passion to win at IMS.”

Howard has had only one finish in four trips to the Speedway. In 2008, after being signed by Roth Racing, the team replaced him with John Andretti. He drove for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010, and qualified the car, but the team withdrew the time in hopes to improve their position and he was unable to find enough speed to rejoin the field. Driving for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2011, he qualified in 20th and ran as high as 7th, but retired in 30th due to a tire issue. Hoping for a change and an improvement, he was set to drive for Michael Shank Racing in 2012, but the team failed to secure an engine deal for the Month of May and Howard was once again left on the outside looking in.

[singlepic id=1966 w=300 h=200 float=left]This year, Howard is with a solid team driving the No. 77 One Cure Dallara/Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. Howard has always been a talented driver, but it seems always limited by his equipment. Now he’s partnered with a strong team and his speed is already showing the strength of the Howard/SPM program.

“I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to have this opportunity. I’m not one to give up on a dream, and I have every bit of determination to make this a successful effort for Tony, Team One Cure and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. I’m in the best condition both mentally and physically, and my race craft is on point. We will be more than ready when IMS opens for practice this May.” — Jay Howard, No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport

During Fast Friday, he posted an eighth best speed of 231.255 mph. There are a number of strong drivers in this year’s 500, but I think Jay Howard is one of the drivers that many are overlooking as a serious challenger. Heavy rain and lightning struck the track this morning mere minutes before qualifying was to begin, but the trucks and jet driers are out in force now and qualifying for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will begin around 4:00pm EDT. Every driver will get one guaranteed attempt, but there will be no second attempts permitted today. We’ll see how Mr. Howard does.

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