The opening act of the NTT IndyCar Series doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway featured a dominant display by race winner Scott Dixon. However, much of the late drama for Saturday night’s Genesys 300 came courtesy of Jack Harvey.
The 28-year-old Briton continued his strong start to the 2021 season with a look at a potential top 5 run before ultimately settling for a seventh-place finish. To set the scene of where everything came undone, it began with the final restart on Lap 174 of 212. There Harvey was sitting in sixth, and although he was bearing down on the rear wing of Colton Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, he also had a mirror full of the charging No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda of Graham Rahal.
On Lap 176, Harvey came off Turn 2 and attempted to keep Rahal behind by making an aggressive dive to the bottom lane in an effort to have the preferred line entering Turn 3. Despite his best efforts, Rahal was undeterred and pushed his momentum even lower than Harvey’s defense, even going below the white line and on the apron of the backstretch briefly to complete the pass on the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda.
Although the situation was reviewed by IndyCar race control, there was no action taken with regard to a penalty.
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The move proved to be pivotal as Rahal methodically marched to finish fifth, while Harvey coasted to a reasonable top 10 result.
For Rahal, who was positive on the team’s result after starting 13th, there was also displeasure with Harvey over their on-track battle.
“I have a lot of respect for Jack, but we need to have a man-to-man talk about that,” said Rahal, the 2016 Texas winner. “He could see the run that I had was tremendous, and we were going to go by. You just don’t need to risk anybody like that.
“And also, it hurt him more. It kills your momentum. The best thing to do is to lift a little bit and fall in line. I understand he did the same thing to Alex (Rossi) on the front straight, so we need to have a discussion about it. I respect him a lot, but we need to talk about it, for sure.”
With the XPEL 375 set for Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. CT on NBCSN), Rahal was adamant the two needed to talk prior to taking the green flag.
“We need to have a talk about it over the next 12 hours,” Rahal added. “I think race control needs to, too, because how is that not penalized? Let’s face it, that’s what they teach us: you can’t move in reaction, and particularly at 225mph.”
The incident between Harvey and Rossi that Rahal referred to was also moments after the final restart. Harvey took ownership of that challenging moment after watching a replay, acknowledging he “squeezed” Rossi into the grass through the dogleg of the 1.5-mile superspeedway, which happened due to an issue with his shift lights. Harvey admitted he immediately made it a point to find Rossi and apologize after the race.
However, Harvey had a different opinion over the situation with Raha, asserting he was in position — and had the right — to stand his ground from Rahal’s attack.
“I felt like if we could just weather the storm we’d be in a good spot to keep people behind,” Harvey told RACER. “Obviously I reacted first. I think I’m allowed to move to the bottom. If the stewards have something they want to say about how much space we have to give, It’s not like we were rubbing wheels down at the bottom and he was just staying on, or anything like that. I mean, Graham knows where the trailer is. He can come and have a word with me anytime.
“You know, he’s also a guy I have raced pretty well with a couple of times, so I don’t have any issues with these guys. I don’t know — sometimes I feel like either me or the team, there are people that still think of us like part-time, small-team attitude and think they can just do whatever, anytime. It’s not that we’re not actively trying to change that, but when we feel like a good result is available, am I just meant to let everyone pass willy-nilly as soon as someone puts their nose on the inside?
“I think the whole time I’ve been in IndyCar, if you ask anyone up and down the pit lane, I think I’m very fair. If anything, probably could be more aggressive at times. And the one time I try and be more aggressive, people (have) got something to say. So, you know, you can never win that battle. At the end of the day, all I want to do is bring this car home high up the finishing order as possible in one piece.”
Harvey will start fifth in Sunday’s second Texas race, the line-up for which was set by entrant points following the rainout of yesterday’s qualifying session that would have set the grids for both races. Rahal starts ninth.