Howard Joins Schmidt for Indy
February 23, 2011 | 2:41 P.M. EST
In 2006, Howard won the Firestone Indy Lights championship by winning two races and notching five top-five finishes while driving for SSM. This year, Howard will be behind the wheel of SSM-prepared Dallara/Honda/Firestone IZOD IndyCar Series entry for the Indianapolis 500.
“With the success we had as a team in 2006, I can’t wait until May gets here,” said Howard, a resident of Indianapolis, and a veteran of nine IZOD IndyCar Series races. “SSM puts together a great race car and I like my chances for racing in this historic Indianapolis 500. I definitely have some unfinished business at Indy.”
Despite being one of the fastest cars in practice on the final day (Bump Day) of qualifying for the 2010 Indianapolis 500, Howard’s bid to make his first “500” fell short. Driving a car owned by fellow driver Sarah Fisher, Howard experienced the gut-wrenching highs and lows of an Indianapolis 500 Bump Day.
After posting a speed early in the day to qualify for the race, Howard was bumped from the 33-car field by Formula One veteran Takumo Sato during an exciting final one-hour of qualifying. When veteran Paul Tracy’s car was withdrawn from the race in attempt to post a safer qualifying speed, Howard was placed back in the field briefly. With time running out and fear of being bumped, Fisher’s team decided to also withdraw Howard in attempt to re-qualify faster. Unfortunately, Howard couldn’t get enough speed out of the car in his final attempt and missed the race.
“I remember watching that final hour of qualifying from our garage in Gasoline Alley last year,” said Schmidt. “I felt sorry for Jay, knowing him personally and how bad he wanted it, but that is part of the drama of Indy. This year, it is our goal to provide the best possible equipment and personnel to allow Jay to show his true potential to everyone.”
This year is SSM’s 10th anniversary of fielding a car in the Indianapolis 500. SSM was formed in 2001 after Schmidt’s own driving career ended in 2000 after a crash during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Driver Davey Hamilton started 26th in the 2001 Indy 500 in an SSM Dallara and finished 23rd.
In addition to entering cars in the Indianapolis 500, SSM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights, which is the leading support division to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Driver J.K. Vernay’s championship in 2010 was the team’s fourth Firestone Indy Lights championship. Schmidt has visited victory lane 37 times as a car owner in the series.
Practice for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 begins on Saturday, May 14.