Jay Howard, the IRL rookie who was controversially dropped by his team for the Indianapolis 500, will not be returning to the track any time soon.
Roth Racing has announced it will retain John Andretti for the next two races in Milwaukee this weekend and Texas the weekend after.
Howard, the 2006 champion in IndyCar’s feeder series, was signed for a full-time drive this year by Roth as the underdog team expanded to a two-car programme for the first time.
But Marty Roth, the millionaire developer-turned-racer who owns the team and pilots one of the cars, snapped up the veteran Andretti on pole day at Indianapolis to replace Howard.
His argument was that the rookie had not had sufficient time to learn the circuit because of bad weather during practice.
In the end Andretti, a popular figure in the IRL who many feel deserves a regular drive, ran well and finished 16th. Roth was the second driver to retire from the race, completing just 59 of the 200 laps.
Andretti was supposed to hand back the car to Howard after the race. “Jay will be back at Milwaukee. He has our full support. He’s a great driver,â€ Roth’s wife Margaret, the team president, said at the time the change was announced.
But now the team has declared: “Roth Racing is pleased to announce that veteran John Andretti will remain with the team as the driver of the #24 car for two more races beginning with this weekend’s race in Milwaukee. He will also be behind the wheel next Saturday night in Texas.”
Andretti finished second at the Milwaukee Mile in 1991 in a CART race won by his cousin Michael. His uncle, Mario, took third to make the podium a family affair. “I still say I won the race but they gave it to my cousin Michael – and I always tell that to Michael too, but of course he disagrees,” he said.
There is no mention of Howard in the Roth Racing statement. Andretti has now been added to the team’s website, but Howard remains on there – and retains higher billing, as Andretti’s name has been slotted into the website navigation underneath his.
No-one’s talking about the thinking behind the decision, but it’s easy to imagine that the team – having made a difficult leap by running a second car, and with a new chief engineer – didn’t want to lose the input of the experienced Andretti.
And since the whole reason the team exists is to let Marty Roth drive, it was never going to be him who watched from the sidelines.
The decision has been widely criticised by fans – while generally pleased for Andretti, many feel Roth is damaging the long-term development of his team by not standing aside in favour of an Andretti / Howard pairing.
Commenting on the Indianapolis Star website report, reader MarkyD1 says: “It is Marty’s team, and Marty’s money, so it is his rules. I think we all know he should be on the sideline while Howard and Andretti drive his cars.
“I think Andretti’s experience and age may help Howard develop while Marty focuses on owner issues, such as sponsership etc – and he may be able to make that team into something. He is about where Vision racing was not too long ago.”
Others are blunter: “As drivers go, Marty Roth makes a GREAT car owner,” says SWT500.