As far as emotions go, Mike Shank is an open book. It explains why the longstanding sports car entrant, whose new Verizon IndyCar Series team made its debut today in St. Petersburg, made no attempt to hide his wide smile as the first practice session got under way.
Shank got his first taste of the IndyCar experience last May at the Indy 500 in a collaboration with Andretti Autosport, but the car was leased and all fell silent afterward. After purchasing his own car and making the investments necessary to run Jack Harvey in a part-time campaign from Michael Shank Racing’s Ohio shop, there was a visible sense of pride and accomplishment as he watched the No. 60 Honda circulate.
All the pressure of delivering for sponsors and having a good showing on Friday was present throughout both sessions, but it was also nice to see how much being on pit lane, with a team of his own, meant to Shank.
“It is a big day for us to get through this, just to get the first day jitters out of the way,” he told RACER.
“And we did. Everything is going exactly how we thought it would. We’ll keep working on the car overall. Just working on getting up to speed and everything. We have a lot more to go but like I said I’m pretty pleased, but we’ve got a lot more to go here.
— Paul Harvey (@Harveyracing) March 9, 2018
“Even though we got to run Indy last year, yes it was a long, long road to get here today. There were a lot of people that work here and who have worked here in the past that have helped us to get to this point. It takes so many things to align just right to be able to get to go racing at this level in North America. I feel very lucky in that regard. It is a big, big learning curve, but we are going to do everything we can to be as impressive as we can as quickly as we can!”
Jim Meyer, the CEO of Harvey’s primary sponsor SiriusXM, spent the day in the pits with MSR, which bolstered Shank’s confidence in where the program is headed.
“Jim was here with us today, and he loves it and loves being a part of it in pit lane and we love that he’s that kind of guy,” he continued. “More than anything, I want to demonstrate that not only do we deserve to be here on the IndyCar pit lane from a competition point of view, but also from a commercial and marketing partnership point of view. So we will keep working on these relationships and see what we can do.”
The No. 60 ended the day in 23rd position, which was less than everyone was hoping for, but considering the stiff opposition they’re up against, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Making improvements to the car overnight through MSR’s technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports should help Harvey to show more of his natural speed.
“I think the day went pretty well,” Harvey said. “We have a good pace right now and there is definitely more to come out of the car. The first session was a solid run and gave us lots of room for improvement which I think was a good starting spot. There were areas where I was improving every lap and now I just need to put my quickest lap together.
“Overall, I feel like it is a pretty solid start for where we want to be. I haven’t driven here in a few years, so things have changed a lot on the track but it’s just like I remember it. It’s quick and a bit wild in places but overall it was a lot of fun.”