IRL: Howard dropped for Indy500

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Jay Howard has lost his chance to drive in this year’s Indy500 after his struggling team decided to drop him for the race and bring in veteran John Andretti.

Roth Racing says it has full confidence in the 2006 Indy Pro champion and his absence will last for just this one race – but the team reckons it needs the experience of Andretti in order to catch up lost ground at Indianapolis.

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The team, set up as a vehicle for Marty Roth to compete in the IRL, is in its first full season running two cars. Despite flashes of speed from Roth in qualifying, it has lacked notable success so far this season.

Its Indy500 preparation was disrupted by the loss of team engineer David Cripps, although it has replaced him with ex-Vision manager Larry Curry. Both Roth and Howard have struggled for speed, and the team has been hit particularly badly by the loss of practice time to rain.

Team president Margaret Roth said: “As a result of the days lost due to weather, and losing our chief engineer days before the start of this month, we found ourselves behind the eight-ball. John brings with him a wealth of experience, which can help us build two competitive cars for the 500.”

Andretti was a regular in the race between 1988 and 1994, and made a one-off comeback in last year’s race. He was known to be hoping to find a drive for this year’s race, though not with any great optimism.

Margaret Roth stressed Howard still had the confidence of the team: “Jay will be back at Milwaukee. He has our full support. He’s a great driver.”

So far, no public comment from Howard. But one commenter on the Indianapolis Star website was unimpressed: “You’re kidding me. Jay Howard is the only thing Roth has going for him after he loses Cripps, his sponsor, and 5 crew members, and then Marty gives him the shaft, too? I had some sympathy for Marty, but no more.”

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