INDIANAPOLIS — “I swear, his face will split in half if he smiles any wider!”
Michael Shank had every reason for the ear-to-ear grin after his NTT IndyCar Series driver, Jack Harvey, scored a third-place finish in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Honda engineer Tasher Willet’s assessment of the team co-owner she works with was entirely accurate. How could it not be?
Meyer Shank Racing is a part-time entrant running 10 races out of the 17 races this season. That plan of growth follows one race in 2017 and six last year. With limited running for the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda in partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, results like Saturday are appreciated even more by the Ohio-based team and its determined co-owner.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Shank said. “Because I’ve literally worked for 30 years in racing to try to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway podium and Jack – I give it all to Jack, the engineers and the crew, and I think the integration with Honda really worked today. Let it rain now but what a start to the month!”
Starting third (another best for driver and team), Harvey made a statement heading into the first corner on the first lap, getting around eventual race runner-up Scott Dixon in a move that Harvey and Shank had discussed for about two hours prior to the start of the race. After securing second position, the race was on to maintain pace.
“We wanted to make sure that he went left and didn’t stay in a line when he got to Turn 1,” Shank said. “He did, he popped out, drove around the outside and he was gone.”
Harvey ran second to Dixon late in the wet race on the 2.439-mile permanent road course but fell victim to Simon Pagenaud’s final charge to victory. Still, the third-place result was by far Harvey’s best showing in 14 NTT IndyCar Series races. His previous to finish was 10th.
The result was even sweeter for Harvey because it came at IMS, where the two-time Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season runner-up had won before in the top level of the Road to Indy development ladder.
“You're racing against the best drivers in the world in what was difficult conditions today, so I was absolutely thrilled that we got that result,” said the Bassingham, England, native. “Selfishly, I think it's nice that we can go back to everyone at Meyer Shank Racing, back to everyone at Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, AutoNation, Sirius XM and say, ‘I can do this, I can compete at that level, I can get the results. Thank you for your trust in me, let's do it more often.’
“It's that result for me anyway, it's nice to be able to go and hang your hat on nicely and take confidence from it and say, ‘Right, let's do it more often because how we feel tonight and how we're going to feel in about two hours' time is going to be pretty awesome.’”
Harvey’s podium finish is another tale of redemption. The 2012 British Formula 3 Champion had no ride at all in 2016 after his Indy Lights success. He and Shank have helped build Meyer Shank Racing’s open-wheel program into more and more of a contender on a consistent basis.
“It's not easy coming to the track and watching everybody else race when you're sitting on the sidelines,” Harvey said of the races in which the team doesn’t compete. “That being said, I am extremely lucky, especially I (owe) a lot to two people in particular, my manager Bob Corona (and) Marc Cannon from AutoNation. I think those two guys really saved my career. They both stuck with us at a time when I desperately needed somebody, and we worked really hard to try and put the (Indianapolis) 500 together in 2017, and we did, along with what was then still Michael Shank Racing and Andretti Autosport.”
Harvey felt honored to stand on the podium with series champions Pagenaud and Dixon, but he’d like to do it more often. The goal for his team is to run the full season in 2020 and beyond.
“To share the podium with both of those guys, I think is pretty special,” Harvey said. “Our first podium in INDYCAR today, and hopefully it's the first of a few.
“We're just going to keep using it to keep learning, get more experience, and hopefully it won't be as much of a shock when we get in here again.”
Harvey and MSR are among the entries for this year’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge set for Sunday, May 26. Practice for the race begins Tuesday on the IMS oval. Tickets remain available at IMS.com.