HILLIARD, Ohio (June 3, 2011) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan turned some heads at last week’s Indianapolis 500 when its two-car team put in promising outings, but more importantly, the strong showing earned the team and one of its drivers an opportunity to build on that promise in next Saturday’s Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jay Howard (#88 Service Central SSM/RLL Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will reprise his role as the driver of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports/RLL entry that he piloted to a spot in the top half of the field early in the Indy 500. His day was cut short by a Lap 62 crash triggered by a loose wheel as he came off of Pit Lane, leaving him to finish 30th in his first Indy start. Encouraged by his speedy showing through the initial stages of the race, Service Central, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan worked diligently to get Howard another opportunity to drive the #88 Indy Car.
“Service Central has believed in me from the start and it's very exciting to return with them to the Texas Motor Speedway,” Howard said. “Our Indy 500 effort was strong all month long and to have it end the way it did was unfortunate. We are looking ahead to Texas and plan another hard-fought effort with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. I must thank the entire group at TBC Retail Group and their 4 retail brands – NTB, Big O Tires, Tire Kingdom and Merchant Tires for the opportunity.”
“Jay had a fantastic run going at the Indy 500, but it just wasn't meant to be,” said Schmidt. “We really appreciate the support of Service Central and their brands that are making it possible for Jay to have another shot at Texas.”
Howard is part of a field that will make Indy Car history as the series contests two separate races on the same day for the first time since 1981 (Atlanta, both races won by Rick Mears). The grid for the first race will be set by traditional qualifying, which takes place on Friday, June 10. The starting lineup for the second race will be determined by a blind draw to be held at the end of the first event.
“We are entering into an event where anything can happen, but as we showed in Indianapolis, our team is ready for anything that does happen,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Jay impressed us on race day and we are very optimistic that he can have another good weekend for us in Texas.”
Despite having just 10 starts on his Indy Car ledger, Howard has experience on the high-banked Texas oval. The 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion competed there a year ago with Sarah Fisher Racing, but was sidelined with mechanical trouble after 37 laps and ended up finishing 26th.
“It was great to watch Jay put in a great run at Indy where he gained a lot of positions. Sadly, it wasn't the finish we were hoping for,” said Orland Wolford, CEO, TBC Retail Group. “We took this opportunity to put him back on the track because we are confident he and his team have what it takes to stand in the victory lane.”
The Firestone Twin 275 weekend gets underway Thursday with an autograph session at the Macy’s store in the Northpark Mall. Practice starts at 12:30 on Friday, with qualifying at 3:45. The first 114-lap race begins at 7:45 p.m. with the second slated for 9:45. Both races can be seen live on Versus.