- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Michael Shank Racing on Wednesday released driver Jay Howard from his Indianapolis 500 contract because the team does not have an engine.

“We are working every possible opportunity to make this happen and continue to hold our entry for the Indianapolis 500,” Shank said. “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 firsthand 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 announced he had filed an entry for Howard, a former Indy Lights champion, last week. He said he had a sponsor, but no engine.

This week, he said he was on a time crunch to secure an engine lease from either Chevrolet or Honda, and if he didn’t reach an agreement soon, he couldn’t move forward with any reasonable expectation of putting forth a quality effort.

His withdrawal puts the Indy 500 in danger _ at the moment _ of not having a full 33-car field. Shank is the 33rd entrant.

But Jim Campbell, vice president of Chevrolet Performance Vehicles & Motorsports, indicated the manufacturer has something up its sleeve.

“Based on our current plan, Chevrolet projects that we will have 15 entries for the Indianapolis 500,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press. “At this time, we do not have the capacity to accommodate another team.”

Although that leaves Shank out, it indicates the manufacturer is prepared to field a car for at least one team not already announced. Chevrolet currently has 14 official entries, but there’s been no official announcement on a second entry for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Chevrolet is also expected to pick up Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which has been released from Lotus.

Honda presently has 14 official entries, but is expected to pick up Bryan Herta Autosport, which also left Lotus.

Lotus has three official entries.

Howard, meanwhile, did not indicate what he’ll do next.

“I was really looking forward to working with Mike and helping him finally get into IndyCar,” Howard said. “For me personally, 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 manufactures will continue in my corner so we can collectively fill that 33rd spot this year.”

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