Meyer Shank Racing has made it clear it is not to be taken lightly.
In the midst of its second full-time season in the NTT IndyCar Series, the proud single-car outfit has delivered a pair of top 10s, including a fourth at St. Petersburg, through the opening four races of 2021.
However, some questioned the team’s approach at the recent Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader after Jack Harvey made aggressive attempts to protect his position, specifically against Graham Rahal, late in the running of the opening race.
After the race, Rahal said the two would need to “have a man-to-man talk about it.” Although both drivers maintained their respect for one another, Harvey added that “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.”
That’s the central issue as the organization braces for two races this weekend with its IndyCar squad taking on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, while its sister IMSA team campaigns its Acura DPi at Mid-Ohio.
“Well, what Jack was saying is 2000% right,” co-owner Michael Shank said. “We’re not going to get freaking pushed around. We’re not going to get shoved, period. And sometimes that pisses people off on either side: IMSA or IndyCar. Specifically, Jack last week got called out on some stuff that just just mind-boggled me. But we’re just not going to be pushed around. Jack acknowledged that to everybody, and I’m proud of him for doing it.
“It goes for the IMSA side (as well). If you hit us, we’re coming back at you, or if you block us, we’re going to come at you again. The IndyCar side of it, I think it comes from maybe a little lack of respect, and it’s my pet peeve of my life, is (lack of) respect.
“So, whatever Jack’s got to do, I’ll support him on it. They made it into a dramatic moment for us last week, but that’s OK. Our team is a lot bigger now. Jim Meyer (co-owner of MSR) came in a couple of years ago and then last October Liberty Media, who bring a tremendous amount of resources with them, came to us. There’s expectations. We’re not the little team. Our team is probably, truthfully, the fifth- or sixth-largest team in racing in open-wheel or sports car overall if you look at us from a revenue and employee side. We just got to get some closing done. We got to get some wins. We’ve got to keep staying on the podium with both programs and kind of earn the respect that I’ve had to do all my life, every step of the way. I’m a freshman every year, it seems like.”
Looking back at his words from just 10 days ago, Harvey didn’t put his stance down to erupting emotions, but instead felt it was simply the right moment to put to rest the ‘small, little team that could’ image.
“I certainly didn’t go into the weekend trying to be hyper-aggressive or anything like that,” said Harvey, who sits 10th in the championship standings. “It’s just the opportunity was there, and we went for it. Looking back, it’s good just to establish that. Certainly, we’re not patting each other on the back or anything like that. We just all expect to do (well). As a follow-on from Michael’s point, I don’t care what the size of the team is, I just want to be the team that did.
“I was running the other day and Twisted Sister came on, and it was the song ‘We’re not going to take it’, and I just thought it seemed pretty appropriate after our last weekend when we made so many friends on track. Whatever. I’m not here to be everyone’s best friend. I’m here to try and get good results, make the team proud, make our partners proud, because one thing I think everyone so easily overlooked last weekend is, if I hadn’t have made some of those moves, I’d have to go and then talk to Michael and Jim and explain why we’re not being aggressive, why we’re not getting after it, and they’re not fun conversations to have either.
“At the end of the day, it was just an opportunity to show everybody – drivers, Michael and Jim – how much I want to be here, how much I want this program to have success and do it together. So I thought it was amazing how everyone just so easily expects to poke their nose up the inside and give everybody the corner willy-nilly. Certainly, we’re not going to be hyper-aggressive, but we’re not going to be pushovers, and I think we know where that barrier and that line is. I thought we picked quite a good one in Texas, and I certainly don’t see any reason to change that approach.”