Series Spotlight: Jay Howard Driver Development
 August 16, 2022| 
  • Series News
Jay Howard 3
Courtesy of Cooper Tires Hashtag Program

Jay Howard has parlayed a successful racing career of his own into a formidable junior formula racing team but through all his accomplishments, one goal has always been in mind: to see a young driver advance through his in-house program all the way from karting to the top of the ladder: the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

The Jay Howard Driver Development team has long been dedicated to mentoring young drivers as they begin their racing careers, helping to prepare them with the skills required to succeed on the path from karting through the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. It’s a road Howard knows well, having won the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship (then the US Formula Ford Zetec Championship) in 2005, with victories in nine of 12 races, then teaming up with Sam Schmidt to capture the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires title in 2006.

“If everything falls into place the way it needs to, I think it will happen,” said Howard. “But for now, I thoroughly enjoy just watching these kids get better and get the results. We worked with Carlin in Indy Lights last year, but they stopped racing here – though we’re looking to get back to the series eventually. Every day that goes by, that wild dream gets a little closer to the reality, but if we do it, we have to do it right – we have to be able to win.”

Howard began making the transition from driver to team owner in 2012, coaching young drivers on the karting level while competing in karting events himself, to keep his skills sharp. He last competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, when he formalized JHDD as an F4 US Championship Powered by Honda team, while making plans to also join the USF2000 series.

In its first year on the Road to Indy in 2019, JHDD finished third in both the final driver and team standings. 2020 saw JHDD earn its first championship title with Christian Rasmussen, capturing nine wins (including the first six in a row) and eight poles – and placing Howard an elite list of people who have won championships as both a driver and a team owner. Rasmussen would go on to capture the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with JHDD in 2021.

For Howard, it’s not just a driver’s performance on track that matters. He knows that how a driver conducts himself off track is just as important – a lesson that becomes more and more important as they move up the ladder.

“That’s why we have a ladder in place, to get the process started,” said Howard. “I am here to prepare the drivers for the top level of INDYCAR by educating them, for example, advice on social media, it’s because that’s what is expected of you as a professional driver representing not only yourself, but your sponsors, the team, the series and all of the partners. It’s not about just you as a driver: there’s a much bigger picture”.

JHDD continues to compete on multiple levels of the junior formula categories – F4, USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000, where both drivers (Braden Eves and Salvador de Alba) are in the top 10 in points. On the other end of the spectrum, Howard does not have a karting team per se: his sole focus in karting is to support his 6-year-old son Hudson, who is following in dad’s footsteps. Being at the karting track is a way for father and son to share their love of racing – but it’s also a chance for the elder Howard to scope out the up-and-coming talent.

“Hudson is my main focus in karting,” enthused Howard. “I love being at the track with my son – I work so much and am away so much, so that time with him is so valuable to me. It’s not a kart team that he’s a part of: he is my focus. If I can do the racing with him, have quality time with him, that’s my balance.

“That said, I’m at the racetrack, and I’m happy to help someone who needs it, whether it’s suggestions of how to get started or how to progress. I also have a chance to see some of the really good, young talent every week so I know who’s ready to move up!”

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