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.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan – which announced in December that former Newman/Haas partner Mike Lanigan had joined Bobby Rahal and David Letterman as team co-owners – will partner with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which has won 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 No. 88 Service Central IndyCar.
Schmidt had already announced that it would enter Howard for Indy in addition to its full-season program with Alex Tagliani via its buyout last week of the FAZZT Race Team, and three-event deal with Wade Cunningham.
“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 IndyCar racing and our plan is to provide him with everything he needs to take that next step,” said 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.”
Bobby Rahal's team won the Indy 500 with Buddy Rice in 2004, and though it has not been an IndyCar regular since the end of 2008, it returned to run Oriol Servia at Indy in 2009 and Graham Rahal in 2010. Its main focus in recent years has been BMW's American Le Mans Series GT effort.