Another driver-team pairing was confirmed for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 today as Jay Howard will be reunited with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the May 27 race. Howard will pilot the No. 7 One Cure Honda during the month of May.
“To say I am excited is an understatement,” said Howard. “There are no words to describe how happy I am to be representing CSU’s One Cure initiative – it’s an honor to be flying the green and black colors! One Cure’s goal is to raise awareness and funding for the Flint Animal Cancer Center to continue the fight against cancer; on race day, we will be fighting for something more than just the Borg Warner trophy. I also want to thank everyone at SPM and Honda for this opportunity. It will be great to be back with the team.”
Howard will be making his third start in the race, all with SPM . Last year, the Brit started 20th and worked his way up to 12th before running out of fuel about one-quarter of the way into the race. Howard struggled for a few laps after that with electrical issues, then made contact with the turn 1 wall before colliding with Scott Dixon in a spectacular crash on lap 54. Thankfully, neither driver sustained major injuries despite being knocked out of the race.
Prior to last year, the last start for the British driver at the 500 came in 2011 . Howard started in 20th, but was involved in a crash and finished 30th after completing 60 laps.
“The One Cure brand has become increasingly visible in motorsports the past few years, but we still have a long way to go explaining the cutting-edge cancer research happening at CSU and how race fans can contribute in a meaningful way,” declared SPM co-owner Sam Schmidt.
“With the full force of Jay and SPM, we’re developing an engaging activation plan heading into the month of May that will steer fans in the right direction and ultimately accelerate the pace and number of clinical trials. Having seen the Flint Animal Cancer Center with my own two eyes, I’m confident we can deliver critical resources to One Cure that will have a lasting impact.”
The announcement of Howard’s return comes after several months of controversy and speculation. The third car was originally slated to go former ChampCar driver Tristan Gommendy. Unfortunately, the controversial past of one of Gommendy’s financial backers led to the two sides mutually agreeing to part ways.
Since then, SPM has also announced that they will be in a technical alliance with Michael Shank Racing. Shank’s team will field Jack Harvey in six races, including the Indianapolis 500. Even after the alliance with Shank’s team was announced, team owner Sam Schmidt remained intent on run-in three cars from his own stable in May.
Teaming with Howard are the team’s full-time drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, 2016 Indianapolis 500 polesitter James Hinchcliffe and series rookie Robert Wickens. Also of note, Howard will test out the new universal aero kit for the first time next week when rookies and part-time veterans take part in orientation and refresher programs. That test day is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28.
Images courtesy of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and INDYCAR.