Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jay Howard’s Rollercoaster

Let’s face it: the Indianapolis 500, on the whole, has not been kind to Jay Howard. Let’s recap, shall we?

2006’s Indy Lights champion didn’t get a ride at Indy until 2008 with Roth Racing, and he was yanked out of the car for John Andretti. It would be another two years until he got another shot at making the field, this time with Sarah Fisher’s program. Howard was in the field until the team withdrew his time in order to attempt to qualify faster. It didn’t happen, and as a consequence, he had to wait once more, still an Indy 500 rookie.

Last year, Howard’s luck looked to be much improved, as he came into the month as a one-off entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was relatively quick in practice and qualifying, starting P20 after qualifying on Pole Day. During the race itself, he was moving up and running as high as P7 when a lost right rear wheel coming out of the pits put him into the wall. Howard finished P30, but it was still a promising debut, one that had been delayed so many times over the years.

Howard hopes to take a similar photo this year.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Flash forward to this year. Jay Howard, carrying sponsorship, agreed to drive for Michael Shank Racing in their attempted first foray in the Indianapolis 500. However, once again, the 31 year-old Howard’s plans would not be so simple. As is well documented by now, up to this point, Shank’s team has been unable to secure the engine they desire (either Chevy or Honda), while making it clear they do not want to try the 500 with a Lotus.

Howard, however, simply wants to race, be it with a Lotus, Chevy, or Honda. In article with Curt Cavin yesterday, Howard made it clear that he’s willing to consider all options for a chance to be in the Indy 500. If I had been as continually stymied and challenged as Howard in regards to competing at Indy over the years, I’m betting I would, too.

Now, I think it’s entirely likely Jay Howard ends up in a car this month, particularly with Chevy, as that seems to make the most sense right now. But if it were a Lotus, I have no doubt Howard would do the absolute best he could in the equipment he is given. It reminds me somewhat in the abstract of Buddy Lazier, who was willing to climb in an ancient, underfunded Hemelgarn car and do what he had to in order to be a part of Indianapolis.

We’ve all been in situations that are less than ideal. But there’s a lot to be said in life for looking at the cards you’ve been dealt, gritting your teeth, and playing the hell out of that hand. That’s part of the reason why I might not always agree with Jay Howard, but he absolutely has my respect as a race car driver and competitor. Tenacity and will go a long way with me, and I don’t doubt Howard has both in spades. If nothing else this month, Jay Howard has done much to raise his profile in the eyes of INDYCAR and Indy 500 fans. Here’s hoping he gets to see that through with a starting position in the field and a great Race Day.


  1. How can you not like Jay Howard? The man is doing everything he can to be in the Indy 500. I like his determination and that he gives of himself to coach go-kart drivers. Finally, he has a cool bulldog that always catches EJ Viso doing crazy things ;) Thanks for the article Zach!

    1. Thanks for reading! We'll have to see where Jay ends up, but I'm definitely hoping he lands a ride.