IRL: It’s been agony, says Howard as he returns to racing

By Andy Darley

CalendarMonday, June 30th, 2008

 
 

Jay Howard

Jay Howard, the rookie driver dropped by Roth Racing in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500, will return to action next weekend at Watkins Glen.

The team said it was looking forward to Howard’s experience on road circuits paying off in the Camping World Indy Grand Prix at the Glen.

“Happy to get back in the car is an understatement,” said Howard. “It’s hard to describe feelings when I’m on the sidelines watching.”

Roth Racing, set up to allow Canadian businessman Marty Roth to compete in the IRL, expanded to two cars this season with 2006 Indy Lights champion Howard in its second car.

But a change in team engineer and a weather-disrupted practice week for the Indy 500 led the team to abruptly replace Howard, who had little experience on ovals, with the veteran John Andretti for the big race.

Andretti stayed with the team for five races in total, during which he comprehensively outperformed his boss.

Now, with six of the remaining nine races to be held on road or street courses, the team has turned back to Howard.

“I am over the moon to be back in the #24 Roth Racing car for Watkins Glen,” he said. “It’s been agonising not being behind the wheel these past five races but now it’s my turn again and I hope to be able to pick up where I left off.

“I had good runs in my last three races and St. Pete was going to be a high-water mark for the team until I had late contact with Dan Wheldon. I am as hungry as ever and hope to build on that performance in St. Pete and give the team its first ever top 10 finish.”

The Honda Grand Prix of St Petesburg, the second race of the season, saw the established order turned on its head as ex-Champ Car driver Graham Rahal won and four other transition drivers finished in the top 10.

Howard was contesting eighth place late in the race when he and Wheldon made contact, and he eventually finished 14th. Marty Roth qualified second-slowest and failed to start the race.

He has previously competed over the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International circuit during his championship winning Indy Lights season and is looking forward to the return visit to a circuit very unlike the ones Andretti replaced him for.

He said: “All my background before I came to the US and even the first four years racing in the US was on what I would call a permanent track. I had never seen a street course or oval before 2006, so it’s going to be a bit more like being at home for me.”

He said the car had noticeably improved since the arrival of engineer Larry Curry: “On the oval the car has been improved with what Larry brought to the team. I’m hoping that translates to the road course – that we find more speed and everyone will be happy.

“More than anything, I’m looking at this point forward and not looking at what happened over the last five races. I’m just going to go out and do what I do best and try to get a good result for the team.”

Team president Margaret Roth said: “We’re glad to welcome Jay back for the next race at Watkins Glen. Jay has a wealth of road racing experience and was well on his way to a top 10 in St. Pete before a late-race incident, so we look forward to a good weekend from him at The Glen.”

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