INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Shank was still beaming, still getting handshakes of congratulations Monday.
Two days after his driver, Jack Harvey, drove the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda to third place in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Shank relished a bigger picture for the team.
Yes, it was the first NTT IndyCar Series podium for Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM, a team Shank co-owns with Jim Meyer. But it also represented much more for a group that’s running a part-time schedule with big-time aspirations.
Shank firmly believes a team that gels all its components – from ownership to the driver to the mechanics and engineers – will find success. Saturday’s finish became confirmation.
“Racing is funny,” he said. “I noticed in sports cars about 10 years ago that it takes a group of people to gel. The gelling effect is real. And since we’re part time at this, it has taken maybe a little bit longer, but it’s coming like gangbusters now. The team and people who made it happen, it’s a solid group who all want to perform and don’t want to make mistakes.”
The team ran six NTT IndyCar Series races last year, with a best finish of 12th at Long Beach, and has raced each of the first five events in a 10-race schedule this year. Harvey finished 10th at both the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas to open the season. Then came a third-place result at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on Saturday.
After the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 26, the team won’t race again until June 23 in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America, then finish with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 28, the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 1 and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22.
“We’re going to stop after Indy, but we certainly have a good springboard to go from,” Shank said. “It’s the gelling that’s making the difference – the team, the engineers and the driver. We purposely loaded the front end of our season so that we could get this rhythm. We’ve got a bit of it now.”
Saturday’s podium finish provides an added boost going into the Indianapolis 500, but so does the satisfying memory of last year’s 500. Harvey finished 16th but ran as high as second before pitting for fuel four laps from the finish.
“Last year’s Indy 500 was the first glimpse that maybe we’ve got something pretty cool here,” Shank said. “We took a gamble on strategy and it almost paid off. When he went from third to second on the last restart, we all saw something flash by our eyes – that all of this stuff is potentially worth it because of the people we have involved.
“That was a catalyst to keep us going and pumped. We didn’t ultimately finish well, but we certainly got everyone up on their feet up in the suite where all the sponsors were, and the enthusiasm bled over to this year.”
Another strong Indy 500 finish might make it difficult to sit out so many races the rest of this season, but Shank remains committed to a controlled growth of the program. He also believes the technical alliance with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will help avoid any falloff in performance.
“Thanks to the connection we have with them, we are always kind of current and not just picking and choosing,” Shank said. “We have a great relationship there, we have good people working for us and that combination is just starting to bear a little bit of fruit.
“It was great to do what we did Saturday, but the big one is coming. If we could come out of (the Indy 500) with a top-five or a top-eight, I’d be over the moon.”
The 103rd Indianapolis 500 airs live at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26 on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets for the race are available at IMS.com.
Check out the Meyer Shank Racing mutual admiration from team and driver in this radio communication following the INDYCAR Grand Prix: