Howard shocked he couldn't find ride for Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Nobody at Indianapolis Motor Speedway had a more frustrating week than Jay Howard.
The English driver who made his first Indy 500 start last season thought he was set to qualify this year when he was hired by Michael Shank.
When Shank couldn't find an engine for the car, he let Howard look for a new car. Howard had sponsorship and experience, but he still couldn't find a ride.
"I didn't think for one minute that I would have a problem getting an engine, it's just unheard of," Howard said Sunday, the second and final day of qualifying. "I don't know if it's happened before."
Howard has had his share of bad luck at Indianapolis' historic 2.5-mile oval.
The first time he came to Indy with a car, he wound up getting replaced before qualifying ended.
He came back with Sarah Fisher's team and qualified for the race, but Fisher, thinking the four-lap qualifying average wasn't high enough, withdrew the time and sent Howard back out to requalify on Bump Day. Howard's first time would have been good enough to make the field, but his last attempt kept him out of the race.
Last year, Howard returned with Fisher's team and finally made the race. Howard qualified 20th, but finished 30th because a crash took him out after 60 laps.
After all that, Howard still says his heart is at the speedway and that he intends to return next season. Eventually, he figures, he'll get a chance to savor what it feels like to stand in Victory Lane.
"You know all of that bad stuff that happens, it just makes you love this place even more," Howard said. "I can assume those (other) guys don't appreciate this place like I do. Until you have the heartache of not making the show, you don't know what it's like."
KIMBALL CRASH: Charlie Kimball became the fourth driver to hit the wall this weekend.
His No. 83 car dipped below the white line as he was going through the first turn and the back end spun around, sending him hard into the outside wall. The car bounced off, then slid down the short chute between the first and second turns where it rolled to a stop.
Kimball climbed out of the car on his own and was checked at the infield medical center before being released and cleared to drive.
"It's really disappointing to go out today and crash the car. Fortunately, the chassis is OK and the guys have plenty of time and are well into fixing it already," Kimball said. "We still have a really good race car, and I just made a mistake. I learned my lesson and we'll go out and have a really good race next weekend."
Kimball's crash was yet another blotch on a spotty weekend for Chip Ganassi's team. None of his four cars made Saturday's pole shootout and the highest starter in next Sunday's race will be Graham Rahal in the 12th spot, the outside of Row 4.
Three drivers crashed Saturday during qualifying - rookie Bryan Clauson, Ed Carpenter and Oriol Servia. All three qualified for the race Sunday.
ANOTHER ANDRETTI?: Mario and Michael Andretti raced together 10 times in the Indianapolis 500, and Michael and Marco Andretti raced against one another in 2006 and 2007.
Perhaps it will happen again with another Andretti father-son tandem.
"Every young driver dreams of racing here, especially in an Indy car," Jarett Andretti, 19, said while visiting the track Sunday with his father, John. "Doing it in a stock car would be great, but to be here in an Indy car, that's what I aspire to do. I want to be out there running like these guys on track now in a couple of years."
John Andretti has made 12 career starts at Indy, and this year marks the first time since 2007 he won't be in the starting field.
He would like to come race here again, too.
"Next year, who knows?" John Andretti said. "Hopefully, I get a chance to pull out the boxing gloves and fight my way back in."
PIT STOPS: Three former 500 winners are in the starting field -- three-time winner Helio Castroneves, two-time winner Dario Franchitti and 2008 winner Scott Dixon. Rubens Barrichello also has won at Indy (U.S. Grand Prix) as have Josef Newgarden and Wade Cunningham, both former Freedom 100 winners. ... Newgarden is trying to become the first driver to win the Indy Lights' Freedom 100 and IndyCars' 500 in back-to-back years. ... Former Formula One driver Jean Alesi is the oldest to qualify for the 500. He will be 47 years, 351 days on race day. The previous record belongs to Jack Hewitt who was 46 years, 320 days when he started the 1998 race. ... Sebastian Saavedra will be pulling double duty this week, competing in both Indy races - the Freedom 100 and next Sunday's 500.