After winning its second team championship in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Pabst Racing is eyeing a Mazda Road to Indy expansion with a planned two-car effort in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires for 2019.
The team originally hoped to join Pro Mazda in 2018 but team owner Augie Pabst said circumstances help him decide to run four USF2000 cars instead.
“We had an opportunity to run Kaylen Frederick as a fourth car in USF2000,” Pabst said. “At that point, I had to make the decision just because of logistics, transporters, equipment and whatnot that if we went to a fourth USF2000 car that we would put the Pro Mazda deal on hold until 2019.
“We’ve got some interest, we’re really not interested in doing it unless we have quality drivers toward the front of the field. If we’re not going to get that, we’re not going to come but at the moment I think we have pretty good interest on that side of things so we’re pretty optimistic that we’ll be here in 2019.”
Pabst enlisted Verizon IndyCar Series driver and Indy Lights winner Jack Harvey to test the team’s Tatuus PM-18 at the recent Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“(Jack is) a total professional,” said Pabst. “We’d like to have been a little quicker but at the same time, Jack’s doing us a big favor. Part of that favor is not crashing the car or hurting the car so at the same time of wanting to go quick and laying it all out there, hurting the car wasn’t part of the goal.”
Harvey got the call to test with Pabst Racing the day before the cars took to the track and it took a while to adjust.
“Augie’s been awesome to me since I moved to North America,” said Harvey. “I know they’re trying to push the Pro Mazda team for next year and get a couple of cars going. It was a little bit slower than what I’m used to now, but I had a great day.
“Any day in a race car is always a good day and it’s such a good group of guys here and they’ve had so much success in USF2000, there’s no doubt in my mind what a good job they’ll do in Pro Mazda and it’s just nice to get in the car and shake it down a bit for them.
The PM-18 has 275 horsepower compared to the 700 horsepower of the Honda engine Harvey had this year in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. While Harvey’s fastest lap was only 10th fastest of the 12 drivers that set laps, it was more important to help Pabst Racing get a baseline on the car and maybe have a little bit of fun behind the wheel.
“Any day in a race car, if you’re not having fun that’s on you,” said Harvey. “Even on a bad day where the car’s a complete dog, it’s still a fun day. I’d still rather be doing it than sitting at home on the couch watching Fantasy Live so yeah, I really enjoyed the day. I’m obviously happy and grateful that Augie called.
"I’d like to see them get two good drivers and honestly I know if they get all those pieces of the puzzle in place they can go and challenge for the championship next year. There’s not many people I really would be confident in saying that in but I like all the guys, they’re as nice as they are talented and that's really saying something and they’ll be just fine.”