Bell, Howard, Officially Entered in 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500
Veteran Townsend Bell and rookie Jay Howard have been named to drive cars entered by Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) in the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. The official entry forms were mailed to the INDYCAR office on April 1, 2011.
Bell, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., will drive the No. 99 Herbalife Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car. Howard, from Basildon, England, will drive the No. 88 Service Central Schmidt/RLL Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
The 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29. It is the 95th running of the historic event, which was first conducted in 1911, but not contested in 1917-18 (World War I) and 1942-1945 (World War II).
Bell, who will attempt to qualify for his fifth Indianapolis 500, will return to the Speedway with the same team for the first time in his career. Driving for SSM in 2010, Bell finished 16th after qualifying 10th. His best finish at Indy came in 2009 when he finished fourth driving for KV Racing.
Chris Griffis will be the team manager on the No. 99 Herbalife car, while veteran Dave Higuera will be the crew chief.
Though entered by SSM, the No. 88 Service Central Schmidt/RLL Racing car for Howard is a partnership with Rahal-Letterman Lanigan (RLL).
RLL Team Manager Scott Roembke will lead the No. 88 Service Central team while Ricardo Nault will be the team’s crew chief.
Despite being one of the fastest cars in practice on the final day (Bump Day) of qualifying for the 2010 Indianapolis 500, Howard’s bid to make his first ‘500’ fell short. Driving a car owned by fellow driver Sarah Fisher, Howard experienced the gut-wrenching highs and lows of an Indianapolis 500 Bump Day and found himself outside the 33-car field when qualifying ended.
In 2006, Howard won the Firestone Indy Lights championship by winning two races and notching five top-five finishes while driving for SSM.
Bell and Howard will join Alex Tagliani as part of a three-car SSM effort for the month of May. Tagliani is automatically entered in the ‘500’ as he and the No. 99 Bowers & Wilkins Dallara/Honda/Firestone entry are part of the INDYCAR TEAM program and compete in all races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
This year is SSM’s 10th anniversary of fielding a car in the Indianapolis 500. SSM was formed in 2001 after Schmidt’s own driving career ended in 2000 after a crash during testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Driver Davey Hamilton started 26th in the 2001 Indy 500 in an SSM Dallara and finished 23rd.
In addition to entering cars in the Indianapolis 500, SSM is the most successful team in Firestone Indy Lights, which is the leading support division to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Driver J.K. Vernay’s championship in 2010 was the team’s fourth Firestone Indy Lights championship. Schmidt has visited victory lane 38 times as a car owner in the series.
RLL is led by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, along with television icon David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. The team won the 2004 Indy 500 with Buddy Rice and has earned 11 top-10 finishes at Indy since its inception in 1992. RLL has also won the Indy Rookie-of-the-Year award with Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay.