Other than maybe the Indianapolis 500, there’s no bigger race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule for team co-owner Michael Shank than this week’s Honda Indy 200 at his home track, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Shank has an Indy car entered for the first time at the 2.258-mile permanent road course in Lexington, Ohio, which sits about 55 miles north of the Meyer Shank Racing shop in Pataskala, Ohio. While he’s driven and owned sports cars that have competed at Mid-Ohio before, Shank is over the moon about what this weekend presents for driver Jack Harvey in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM MSR with SPM Honda.
HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO: Entry list
“God forbid if we actually won this race, I mean it would just be over the top,” Shank said while watching Harvey test last week at the track. “You know, all my life I’ve been coming here since I was just a kid – 1975, 1976, the first years that I was here as a 6- or 7-year-old.
“I watched Indy car (racing) from the years right around when Bobby Rahal was getting started, watching him compete from 1982-1983 on. And then, of course, me driving. I’ve got thousands of miles around this place and always tried to (race an Indy car at Mid-Ohio). Never got there here, but this is the next best thing and hopefully it’s the start of something really cool.”
Shank’s team made its Verizon IndyCar Series debut at the 2017 Indianapolis 500 with Harvey behind the wheel. It sparked a relationship that has expanded to six races this season in a technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The goal is for a full-season effort; maybe not in 2019 but soon thereafter.
“We want to run more, for sure,” Shank said. “I don’t think we’re going to get to the full season (in 2019), but I think we can get a bigger chunk. We’re committed to six (races) for next year. We’d like to get to 10 if possible and that’s what we’re trying to do.
“We’d like to run the whole thing, it’s just that we’re trying to be very conservative and very smart about it.”
Harvey is committed to the long-range perspective that his boss has taken.
“Honestly, I love racing for Michael, I love being part of the team,” the 25-year-old two-time Indy Lights runner-up said. “I think if we can expand that program at any level, that would be great.”
In three races this season, Harvey’s best finish was 12th at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. He was running second at the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May, but had to pit four laps from the finish for a splash of fuel. This weekend will mark the team’s first permanent road course event.
“Jack’s doing a great job,” Shank said. “(He) understands kind of our conservative nature that we have to run in because of just our finances, so it’s been great, just great.”
Harvey knows how to win at Mid-Ohio, sweeping the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader weekend in 2014. The native of Bassingham, England, would like nothing better than to deliver a strong finish for Shank on Sunday.
“I think the nice thing about coming here and it being Michael’s track is the level of support he brings with him,” said Harvey. "Obviously, there’s extra interest on us to do well and, frankly, if we were able to choose a place where we might get a good result at the start of the year, you’d put this one toward the top of the list of ones that you would hope to go well at.
“We always want to go well for the boss man no matter where it is, but there’s always something extra special about doing it at home.”
Honda Indy 200 practice begins Friday with a pair of sessions starting at 11 a.m. and 2:35 p.m. ET. A final practice is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. All three practices will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Verizon P1 Award qualifying, consisting of three knockout rounds to determine the pole winner and starting grid, airs live at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN.
Live coverage of the 90-lap race begins at 3 p.m. Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. A same-day encore race telecast airs at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN.