Howard joins Roth Racing for 2008 season
2006 Indy Pro Series champion Jay Howard will join veteran owner/driver Marty Roth to form a two-car IndyCar Series team for the 16-race schedule. Roth Racing is the first to capitalize on the TEAM (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix) program instituted for IndyCar Series teams. Each full-time participant is guaranteed $1.2 million, and major sponsorship for Roth Racing will be announced soon.
"To say I'm happy is an understatement," said Howard, who had two victories and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 Indy Pro Series starts in 2006-07. "Since the age of 7 when I got in a go-kart all I ever wanted to do was be a professional race car driver. It's come true, so it's pretty special for me."
Howard, 26, will join reigning Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) and '07 runner-up Hideki Mutoh (Andretti Green Racing) in moving up for '08. He competed in three races for first-year entrant SpeedWorks - the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. -- but otherwise was seeking an IndyCar Series ride.
"I thought I had a deal in IndyCar for just the road courses, but that fell apart," Howard said. "I sat there thinking, 'What am I going to do?' It was too late to get an IPS drive. After that, I said I've got to use my time the best I can. I have to benefit by not being in the car. I wanted to show I'm still hungry for it and will never give up."
Roth, another Indy Pro Series graduate, has nine IndyCar Series starts. He advanced seven positions to finish 14th in the '07 finale at Chicagoland Speedway in his last race. The team recently moved its Indianapolis operation to the former Tony Stewart Racing facility and hired veteran race engineer David Cripps to lead that department.
"These partial seasons are very difficult and we focused our efforts this year on marketing and building the team from that standpoint rather than running around the track," Roth said. "Since Indy, we've been developing a plan to expand and go with a two-car program because they are just so much stronger as far as team performance. Jay Howard was just a natural fit; I love his driving style.
"When you have two cars running, you gather a lot of information but the cars have to be set up right. When you're in the IndyCar Series, you have to have a good engineer. With David Cripps and a few others we hope to (hire), I think we will have a strong package for next year."
Howard said any negotiations were dispensed with during one brief phone conversation.
"Marty called me and asked me if I was interested. I said yes and he said, 'OK, if anyone asks, tell them you're driving with Marty Roth from now on.' OK, it's as simple as that," Howard said. "Everyone is just pushing forward. I couldn't have asked to walk into a better situation. Marty definitely is a man of his word and he definitely is 110 percent into this.
"It might take a year for everyone to sort of settle in and me get more experience with things like pit stops, but I've been training unbelievably hard. I'm really fired up.
I'm really going to be pushing hard. I'll be pretty disappointed if I'm not in the top five at St. Pete."