Two teams that have had a great deal of success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will team up this May in hopes of giving a young driver his first shot at glory in the Indianapolis 500.
2004 Indy 500 winners Rahal Letterman Lanigan will partner with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which has won a record-setting five Freedom 100 Indy Lights events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to campaign former Firestone Indy Lights champion Jay Howard at this year’s Indy 500 driving the #88 Service Central Indy Car.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan has made 22 starts in the Memorial Day classic, and has nine top-10 finishes to its credit including Buddy Rice’s victory in 2004. The Ohio-based team has had great success with young drivers at Indy as well, carrying Danica Patrick and Ryan Hunter-Reay to Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
Sam Schmidt is also no stranger to Indianapolis success with young drivers, having taken Thiago Medeiros, Wade Cunningham, Alex Lloyd and Jaime Camara to Victory Circle at Indy as part of his team’s series-record 37 Firestone Indy Lights victories.
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a very special place and we have always taken great pride in performing well there," said SSM owner Sam Schmidt. “Having the chance to work with a team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan gives us even more reason to be optimistic about our chances for success. Jay Howard is a very talented driver and we look forward to a promising month of May."
The 2006 Indy Lights champion, Howard will be trying to qualify for his first Indianapolis 500, after narrowly missing the field in 2008 and 2010. The 30-year-old Englishman has nine IZOD Indy Car Series starts to his credit, including four last season with Sarah Fisher Racing while carrying the Service Central colors.
“I think Jay has always been right on the brink of breaking through in Indy Car racing and our plan is to provide him with everything he needs to take that next step," said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Between Sam’s team and ours, we have the experience, knowledge and ability to provide an entry that will allow Jay to show his skills."
“We are excited to have a second Service CentralÂ® entry in the Indy 500 this year," Said Orland Wolford, President at CEO TBC Retail Group. “The partnership between Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Rahal Letterman Lanigan will surely provide Jay with a great opportunity and a powerful entry. We look forward to watching Jay champion the Service Central car at the Indy 500."
Practice for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 will begin on May 15, with qualifying set for the 22nd and 23. The 500-mile race will begin at noon Eastern Time on May 29 and will be seen live on ABC.