After Jack Harvey qualified third on Friday for the sixth IndyCar Grand Prix, car owner Michael Shank said: “This is the first time where I feel like we really belong here.”
In Saturday’s race, Harvey put an exclamation mark on his boss’ declaration. The 26-year-old Brit put on the drive of his young IndyCar career, giving Shank’s little team its first podium in one of the most entertaining road races in recent memory and easily the best of the six road course races run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“If you had told me we were going to be on the podium next to a couple of champions before the weekend started, obviously I think we would have been happy to take it and we’re excited to be here. But this is a good team and we don’t just want to be one of the cars on the grid,” said Harvey after finishing behind Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon.
“We’re hoping this is a springboard for the rest of 2019 and on into 2020.”
The race began with a bodacious move by Harvey as he smoked five-time champ Dixon going into Turn 1.
“Splitting Scott and Felix [Rosenvquist] was great and my car was good all day,” he said of his AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda. “We didn’t quite have the pace of those two in the wet, but I think we might have held on to second if it stayed dry.”
Twice a runner-up in Indy Lights, Harvey sat out the 2016 season and a once-promising career looked bleak. But Shank and Sirius XM radio CEO Jim Meyer struck up a friendship that turned into a sponsorship and then a partnership. They put together an IndyCar program for Jack and managed nine races in 2017 and 2018.
But, driving once every other month makes it damn near impossible to get any kind of result, especially in today’s ultra-competitive NTT IndyCar Series. The Meyer Shank Racing team signed on for 10 races in 2019, though, and being able to compete every week has made all the difference.
“It’s been good for me in terms of consistency and finding a rhythm and being able to fine tune our car, but it’s also been good for our team, for pit stops and strategy,” said Harvey following only his 14th IndyCar start.
“If I don’t get a drive-through penalty at Barber then we have four top-10 finishes in five races and I think that says a lot. This is a tough series and it takes time to develop your team, but this is a good group and I think we’re starting to gel.”
Shank is the kind of owner IndyCar needs to be successful. He’s a racer to the core and being full-time in IndyCar has been his goal for the last several seasons even as he also runs full time in the IMSA sports car series.
“I’m sticking to my plan,” he replied when asked if Saturday’s success might add a couple races to this season. “This was a great weekend for this team and I’m so proud of Jack and this crew.”
Harvey smiled when asked about the euphoria of the moment. “Everyone is super happy right now, so just imagine how excited they’re going to be when we get our first win.”