Come to find out, Jay and Courtney had chosen to go with our team because of me. No added pressure there.
It was at this time, I had to re-think my strategy. I had so many personal relationships in auto racing and it was something I loved so much. I built my first go-kart when I was only 8 and raced it till the wheels fell off – literally.
I started my first business before I was even 10 – KB's Web Design. The first website I did was my own – go figure – on how to build a go-kart. I had never built a website before (let alone a go-kart), but my parents always said if you have fervor and confidence you can do anything you sent your mind to. My mind was set.
It wasn't long after it seems that I met Sarah Fisher and while she was living out her dream by becoming the youngest to race at Indy, she gave me a shot at mine. My web design business was flourishing with a bevy of clients, including Sarah, which ultimately led me to becoming her manager.
It was during Thanksgiving of 2009 that I begin to lay out what would become BRANDed Management. I would provide a portal to athletes – first from auto racing – to come to for representation. They also wouldn't need to hire an outside agency for public relations either; we would have a division for that too, and why not.
Flash forward to January 15, 2010. I'm not really one to get embarrassed, nervous or uptight about pretty much anything but that day was the most nervous I had ever been in my entire life. I was ready to step out of my comfort zone and start my own business, and off I went. I resigned my position with Sarah after nearly 10 years of working together; to say it was emotional was an understatement. And just as Sarah was embarking on the twilight of her career as a driver, retiring several months thereafter, I too was embarking on a new direction with mine.
Jay was my “first” client and I was happy to help him. The past two and a half years I've been very fortunate to have all the opportunities I've been presented with and each year as I head into preparations for the Indianapolis 500, I take time to reflect on the fact that I almost left and who inadvertently kept me there – Jay Howard.
While Jay has “qualified” just once for the Indy 500, he hopes to make his fourth trip this May to the hallowed ground that they call Indianapolis. He made his first trip in 2008 after signing a full-season deal to compete for Roth Racing based on merit. He was ultimately pulled from the car as practice for the Indy 500 began in exchange for a paying driver after just five races into his season-long contract. His dream of racing at Indy, out of reach.
It took him two years to make his way back and in 2010, he had a car fast enough to race in the 500, but it was withdrawn by his team amid concerns it would be bumped. Unfortunately for both of them, it would not have been. His sponsors, his family, and ultimately Jay, were completely devastated (again).
He returned determined as ever in 2011. We managed to put together a program to run for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, hoping the third time would be his timely charm. He got up to speed rather fast, qualifying solidly in the field in the 20th position. He quickly ran up the field during the actual race and while exiting pit lane in the seventh position, his entire tire/wheel assembly came loose from the car sending Jay to the sidelines to watch the race (again).
The 2012 season wouldn't start much better for Jay. As racing goes, it seems as though one day you have enough to race the entire season and are on top of the world and the next you're back at square one. But alas, as a program finally rolls out, all the obstacles and tribulations are part of the journey as long as the end product goes without a hitch – the drive just made you stronger.
And, so here we are heading into the month of May, still hoping for a MOTOR to go racing with! Jay says to stay in this crazy auto racing business you must be determined and focused – he certainly is. And to say he won't relish his time back at IMS if he's given the opportunity would be a lie. I know I certainly will.