Thrilled after qualifying fourth Saturday at Portland International Raceway, NTT IndyCar Series driver Jack Harvey stayed clear of a first-lap incident that took out four cars and had settled into a solid fourth position in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Comfortable and confident his No. 60 AutoNation/XM Sirius Honda was in position to deliver a solid result for Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Harvey deactivated his push-to-pass button.
Then disaster struck on Lap 14. Harvey was taken out from behind in Turn 1 by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was defending against teammate Alexander Rossi. Hunter-Reay apologized for his mistake on Twitter, but that was of little consolation to the small-budget team still looking to obtain enough sponsorship to elevate to full-time status in 2020.
Harvey and team owner Michael Shank were understandably crestfallen in pit road after crashing out in 19th place.
“We had such good pace all week,” Harvey said, shaking his head. “Pace to win? I don’t know, but definitely pace to be in the top five. I’m disappointed for the whole team because they deserved a much better result.”
Harvey reiterated to Shank that he thought he was in the clear, which Harvey appeared to be until Hunter-Reay couldn’t negotiate the chicane and veered into the back of Harvey.
“You’ve just got to move on,” Shank said. “Ryan didn’t mean to do that. It happens sometimes. It’s eating into my beer money here. This is going to cost a few bucks to fix this one.”
The determined team owner tried to accentuate the positive of how his team performed.
“I was really pleased with how Jack did this weekend, the whole team, top on down. Jack did a hell of a job,” Shank said. “AutoNation, Sirius are behind us now more than ever. We’re trying to get this thing done for next year, but this kind of stuff doesn’t help.”
Harvey was making his ninth start of the season. He finished third, a career best, in the INDYCAR Grand Prix in May.
“It’s a shame,” the 26-year-old British driver said. “The three cars ahead of me were on reds (tires). I couldn’t keep Will (Power) behind me on the restart, but after that, I was so far ahead of the group behind I deactivated my push-to-pass. I turned it off. That’s how far I thought I was. I was at the curb and I get drilled by another machine.”
How quickly racing emotions can change. A day earlier after reaching the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying, the team was elated and all smiles.
“Michael has never ever put any extra pressure on me for anything financial or anything like that,” Harvey said. “I’m well aware of the lack of funding that the team has, but that being said, we still come in and try to give it our all. I don’t want to refer to us as ‘The Little Team That Could.’ We can afford to do what we’re doing right now very well. Obviously good results like (in qualifying) really cement that and showcase that.
“The goal as everyone knows is to try to go full time next year. We’re working really hard to do that. At this stage of the year, (Saturday) is a really great result to get everyone excited, but we still need to get the result. If we sneak a podium, finish fourth or top-five or top-10, that would be a great day.”
A day later, he lamented that not happening.
“If I make a mistake, that’s one thing, but this is going to cost a lot of money,” Harvey said. “I’m just super disappointed for all the guys. They worked their butts off. They’ve done a great job. We were quick here last year and we built on it. It’s such a shame we won’t get the end result.”
Shank was also understandably enthusiastic on Saturday after congratulating Harvey and the team on a job well done.
“It’s a really special moment when people start waking up and seeing what the potential of MSR is,” Shank said. “We qualified third for the INDYCAR Grand Prix, which was a big day for us. This is right on that same level. And why it’s on that same level is it reaffirms about how we’re going about INDYCAR racing. We’ve taken very deliberate steps every year. We didn’t overshoot what we could afford. We developed the team. We developed Jack. We developed our relationship with SPM.
“Listen, we’ve got a big day (on Sunday). We haven’t done anything yet, but that start is what we’re looking for. It way overachieves what our very deliberate expectations are.”
Shank was quite candid about the financial situation.
“What Arrow Schmidt Peterson is doing (for us) now, I’m not going to be a part of that because of my manufacturing relationship,” he said. “So we’ve got to work on our technical relationship, which I’m working on with several teams, and I’ve got to get a final commitment from AutoNation and Sirius, and I’m not quite there yet. We’re close.
“The way I run this program, I can’t lose money. I have to figure out a way worst-case to push, right? I don’t go ask my partner for money every month to get me out of the hole. I just won’t do that. A lot of people can do that. I’ve got a credit line, and that’s all I’ve got.”
After Sunday’s race, Shank acknowledged the need to reiterate to a disappointed team that this result wasn’t indicative of what can be accomplished. He exuded confidence about bouncing back in the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sept. 22 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Shank said. “We’re going to get this thing finished at Laguna. We tested real well in April. I think we have an opportunity to be in the top 10 there also, if things go our way. I’m going to try to get everyone out of this emotional roller coaster of today and get on down the road to Laguna.”
INDYCAR concludes its 17-race season with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday, Sept. 22. Television coverage will begin on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PT local) with the green flag scheduled for 3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m. local). Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 205, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).