The Indy Car Firestone Twin 275s had its share of gimmicks as the series ran two races in the same night for the first time in 30 years, but for Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Jay Howard, he relied on the time-honored trick of passing cars to have a good night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Howard piloted the #88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone past 13 cars in the first of two 114-lap events around the 1.5-mile TMS oval in the first race to come from 28th on the grid to finish 15th. A blind draw after the first race saw the Brit pull the 13th starting spot for the nightcap, and he ran in the top 10 for much of the first half of the race before a mechanical issue in the pits dropped him to 20th in the final standings.

Jay Howard, Sam Schmidt - RLL Racing
Jay Howard, Sam Schmidt - RLL Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

“All in all, I was encouraged by how things went tonight,” Howard said. “We passed a lot of cars, especially in the first race and I think we proved that this is a team that can be a threat. I ran a higher lane in the second race and that helped the car hold on a bit longer throughout the fuel run. Overall, I think we ran well.”

Howard started 28th in the first race, but gained four spots on the first lap and passed five more competitors on the second trip around the tricky Texas oval. He passed James Hinchcliffe on Lap 33 to claim 14th before falling back on his way to his first pit stop. He ran in the lower half of the top 20 during his second stint, but made a strong charge after his final stop, passing four cars in the last 10 laps and fighting off Danica Patrick over the last two laps to hold onto 15th.

The 2006 Indy Lights champion employed a similar strategy early on in the second race, but did it this time from the 13th spot on the grid. He climbed into the top 10 after just five laps and this time another pass of Hinchcliffe vaulted him to an evening-high seventh place. He fell back to 11th before his first pit stop and ran in the top 12 leading into his final stop on Lap 93. Unfortunately, a mechanical malady slowed the crew in replacing the tires, dropping Howard to 26th. He made up six spots in the final laps and ended his day in the 20th position.

“I thought Jay did a really great job tonight, we passed a lot of cars and the team overall did a nice job,” said RLL Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. “We made some good changes to the car in the halftime break and that made a difference. Just like at Indianapolis, once the flag drops Jay knows where he wants to go and works hard on getting there. We thought it was a good format for the race, I think the fans enjoyed it.”

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is working on further plans for Indy Car in 2011 and is also preparing to get back on track with its American Le Mans Series GT-leading program with the BMW M3s. The team will make further announcements on its Indy Car program as the situation warrants.

-source: rll