Jay Howard at the 2011 Indianapolis 500 - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
No matter the outcry from fans and the media and no matter how deserving as a racer, neither Chevrolet nor Honda is budging on supplying an engine to Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Michael Shank, who announced his intention to race in the IZOD IndyCar Series last October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
At the time, Shank said he'd be one of the Lotus-powered Indy car teams, but having watched the difficulties of that engine maker over the first four contests of the season, Shank stated, point-blank that he'd only race at the 96th Indianapolis 500 with a Chevy or a Honda engine. With his engine supply issue unresolved and the start of practice looming at the end of next week, Shank had no option but to release driver Jay Howard from his contractual commitment to Michael Shank Racing Indy (MSR Indy) for the 2012 Indy 500.
Howard, 2006 Firestone Indy Lights rookie champion made a promising debut in the 2011 Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports and was set to join Shank's operation for the 2012 race. "Howard is now free to pursue other options to participate in the Indianapolis 500," Shank said. "Michael Shank Racing will continue to develop the appropriate avenue for participating in the event.
“We are working every possible opportunity to make this happen and continue to hold our entry for the Indianapolis 500,” Shank explained. “But at this point, we’ve not made the progress that we need to in terms of having our package finalized and having an agreement with a motor manufacturer. I know first hand how hard it is to have the opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500, and the last thing in the world I want to do is to hold Jay back from getting the chance to do that.”
Shank was among the first team owners to take delivery of a 2012 Dallara DW12 chassis in mid-January after announcing the formation of his team with NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger and Columbus, Ohio businessman Brian Bailey three months earlier. Adding the commercial partnerships that are required to properly contest the Indianapolis 500, Shank posted his entry in late April with Howard named as the driver. At the time, he fully anticipated securing an engine partnership; the inability to do so has significantly slowed plans for the team.
Howard, of course is disappointed. "I was really looking forward to working with MIke and helping him finally get into INDYCAR. For me personally," the Briton said, "I have to keep moving forward and I remain committed to INDYCAR and competing in this year's Indy 500. I remain optimistic that INDYCAR and the engine manufacturers will continue in my corner so we can collectively fill that 33rd spot this year.
"Thank you to the fans for their support and to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for continuing to provide a dreams we all continue to work towards," Howard stated.
Racing is what Michael Shank does in his life "and there isn't an ounce of 'give up' in me," he said. "But we also have to be realistic about the calendar and what it takes to properly prepare for a race like the Indianapolis 500," Shank mused. ""I'm not done trying to make something happen, but I don't want to keep Jay from realizing his dream either. I've burned up every favor I could think of, called anyone who would be willing to listen and been trying to work with [INDYCAR CEO] Randy Bernard to just be able to get a motor. But the hole in the back of my DW12 is no closer to being filled than it was when we filed the entry."