THE Indianapolis 500 is known for being one of the world’s most dangerous races in the world of motorsport.

Drivers have suffered serious injuries and others have even died at the wheel, competing in the sport they love.

An eye-watering 73 drivers - 42 drivers, one motorcyclist, 13 riding mechanics and 17 others, including a pit crew member - have had their lives taken at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the home of the Indy 500 and its precursors, the Brickyard 400 and the Moto GP event.

Despite the dangers of the sport, one man who enjoys competing is the Basildon-born Jay Howard.

The 36-year-old said: “It is a dangerous sport, but once I am on the track, getting to the front and winning is the only thing going through my mind.

“That’s it - nothing more, nothing less. I want to win!”

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver was on the infamous track for the Indy 500 in May, competing against the likes of Formula One great Fernando Alonso.

But Howard’s race was brought to an abrupt end due to a crash that could easily have ended in fatalities.

Howard endured a horrendous collision with 2008 winner Scott Dixon on lap 53.

In attempting to let 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay pass, Howard was forced wide and hit the perimeter wall before he careered into the path of Dixon at more than 200mph.

The impact sent Dixon’s car airborne before it landed on the safety barrier and came to rest with three tyres missing and the back end completely destroyed.

Miraculously, both drivers walked away unscathed, although the incident prompted a red flag and a delay while the wreckage was cleared from the track.

Crash - the airborne Scott Dixon collides with Jay Howard at more than 200mph in the recent Indy 500

“The crash was an unfortunate example of when your day starts to go bad, more bad things happen,” admitted Howard, a former Appleton School pupil.

“You couldn’t publish what I was saying or thinking immediately after the race!

“Running out of fuel was the beginning of a bad day, but I’m just glad everyone was OK.”

Howard’s love of motor sport began when he first competed in karting in south Essex.

A dream move to the United States materialised and the racer now resides in Indianapolis.

Howard added: “After winning the Formula Renault Championship, I got to a point where I could not continue to move up the ladder without a sponsor as the cost of racing was just out of reach.

“I always wanted to go to the United States as a kid and this was my opportunity to give it a go with nothing to lose.

“Nothing in racing compares to racing in the Indy 500.

“It is the greatest and largest sporting event in the world.”

While the most popular sports Stateside are American Football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey, hundreds of thousands of motor racing fans from around the world travel to Indianapolis to watch the infamous Indy 500, which takes place once a year.

And Howard is certain that competing in the popular event is the biggest highlight of his motor racing career so far.

Howard confirmed: “There are no words to describe the Indy 500.

“It is something I wish all drivers had the chance to compete in as it is the greatest spectacle in racing.

“Seeing 400,000 or more people trackside watching is phenomenal.

“The moment the Indy 500 is over, you find yourself immediately thinking about next year, wanting to be back so badly, sad that the race is over.

High point - Jay Howard enjoys competing in the Indy 500

“I remember watching the Indy 500 at home with my dad, particularly when Nigel Mansell raced.

“I can’t tell you the exact moment that I wanted to move to the United States, but I just remember as a kid always envisioning myself living there.

“It has been a dream come true and I am very grateful to all the people that have helped me along the way.

“I am extremely fortunate to do what I do and I am very thankful.

“I love flying the flag and I am proud of where I am from, where I started and where I have got to.

“I really am living the dream and my thanks go to everyone who has supported me past and present.”

Despite the Indy 500 only taking place less than two months ago, racers from around the world are already looking forward to next year’s event.

The state of Indiana is jam-packed in the days leading up to the race, with hundreds of thousands of fans managing to get tickets, while others are left disappointed.

Howard has already set his sights on competing on the track next year.

And although his home will always be Basildon, Howard feels comfortable in his adopted home of Indianapolis.

Living with wife Courtney and son Hudson, Howard lives just a stone’s throw away from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

And Howard is aiming to be on the track once again in 10 months’ time.

The ex-Appleton School pupil stated: “I hope to return to the Indy 500 next year.

“We are already close to getting a deal done.

“Racing in the Indy 500 and running my Motorsports Driver Development programme is perfect.

“I am very lucky to have what I have.

“I appreciate it every day and work extremely hard daily to keep living the American dream!”

While his roots may lie in Basildon, Howard’s future certainly remains on the oval tracks of the United States, with Indy 500 success his ultimate aim.

Racer: I was priced out of Formula One

WHILE Lewis Hamilton stormed to his fifth British Grand Prix title to equal the current record, another Englishman could have been going head-to-head with him around the Silverstone track yesterday.

The Basildon-born Jay Howard grew up in south Essex with dreams of competing in motor racing.

Having learned the ropes through go-karting, Howard made it his aim to become a racer.

And despite other Essex racers such as Johnny Herbert and Perry McCarthy going down the path towards Formula One, Howard’s future was elsewhere.

Instead, the former Appleton School pupil swapped Basildon for Indianapolis, and has made his mark in high-profile races such as the world-renowned Indy 500.

And Howard, 36, admits that the cost of breaking into Formula One was a major reason in turning to the United States.

Backing - Jay Howard has enjoyed a lot of support since trading south Essex for the race tracks of the United States

Howard said: “I would have loved to have raced in Formula One.

“But the reality is the funding, as a driver, that you need behind you to even get a shot at getting into a Formula One car is astronomical. 

“It was not a reality for me and I also felt IndyCar would be a better fit for me personally.”

Racing at high speeds on the oval track has been Howard’s life for many years now.

But Howard’s wife, Courtney, still thinks he is crazy to be competing in the sport.

Howard added: “Racing ovals is very different.

“My wife and many others think I am not right in the head. I would agree! 

“There have been plenty of Formula One drivers that have tried oval racing and decided it’s not for them. 

“IndyCar is the most diverse form of racing in the world, with short ovals, large super speedways, street courses and regular road courses.

“To be a front runner in IndyCar, you have to be very good at many types of racing.

“It’s part of what makes it so challenging.”

Family man Jay ‘cherishes every moment’ with son

Happy family - Jay Howard, with wife Courtney and son Hudson

JAY Howard has admitted that although motor racing was his first love, becoming a father for the first time was ‘the best’.

Howard and his wife Courtney are the proud parents of Hudson, who is approaching his second birthday.

The couple had wanted to have children since they married.

But falling pregnant did not come easily as Courtney had sustained a traumatic brain injury during a fall from a scooter at an IndyCar race in 2010, which resulted in a mild stroke.

Five years of numerous procedures followed before Hudson was born through a surrogate.

And it is clear that bringing up Hudson ranks far higher than any accolades Howard could win on the oval track as a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver.

Howard, 36, said: “The entire process was something that made us stronger as a family. 

Best feeling - Jay Howard says Hudson makes him ‘complete’

“It was a tough road but having Hudson is worth every penny, heartache and disappointment we had leading up to his arrival. 

“We count our blessings everyday and there is not a single moment of any day that I don’t cherish being with Hudson. We are very lucky. 

“Being a dad is the best and life makes more sense now I am a dad.

“Everything I do is for him and the family - he makes me complete.”

'I'm loving my time in the States'

MOTORSPORT racer Jay Howard is loving life in the United States.
The Basildon-born 36-year-old currently lives in Indianapolis with wife Courtney and son Hudson.

And Howard has admitted that he is open to returning to the track in the United Kingdom, but would find it difficult to leave his Indiana home.

Howard said: “Coming back to race in the UK in the future is a possibility.

“I love England so I wouldn’t want to rule it out.

“But it would be extremely hard to leave what is now home for me here in Indianapolis.

“I look forward to taking my son back home to visit when he gets a little older.”

The former Appleton School pupil found his love for cars and motor racing while growing up in south Essex.

Young driver - Karting fuelled Jay Howard’s motor racing dreams

Karting is where Howard began his time behind the wheel.

And Howard has good memories of competing in south Essex and travelling around the country to go head-to-head with the world’s best up-and-coming racers.

Howard added: “I loved racing in the United Kingdom.

“I was travelling all over the country racing against the best drivers in the world.

“We were all trying to make a career out of motorsport and become a professional racing driver. 

“I raced karts at a high level for many years, winning multiple British Championships before moving up into Formula Ford. 

“I was picked up by ex-Formula One driver Martin Donnelly, who was a team owner at the time. 

“After a year in Formula Ford, I was winning multiple races and leading the Championship but running out of money to finish the full season.

“So we worked on what was next for me. 

“I moved up to Formula Renault, where I had the opportunity to race the Winter Series. 

“I won the first race of the series and then went on to win the Championship. I have a lot of great memories.”

While Howard’s career has taken him across the pond, and he now lives in Indianapolis, the racer still has a number of family members that live in Basildon.

And the Indy 500 racer cannot wait to return to south Essex next month.

Howard confirmed: “My nan is still in Basildon and I miss her.

“I was on FaceTime with her when I was at the Indy 500. 

“I am coming back to England in the first week of August, so I will look forward to visiting her. 

“I have uncles, aunts and cousins still here too, so I hope to see as many of them as possible.”