Graham Rahal has expanded on his stance regarding the dust-up with Jack Harvey in the opening race of the doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway on May 1.
The pair were battling hard for sixth on lap 176 of 212 when Harvey’s No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda made an aggressive maneuver off Turn 2 and dived toward the bottom of the track in an effort to hold his position, which led the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda of Rahal to go below the white line and onto the apron to complete the pass entering Turn 3. Rahal ended up crossing the finish line in fifth, while Harvey finished seventh.
Afterwards, Rahal said a “man-to-man talk” over the incident was needed with Harvey, while also hitting out at race control by asking “how is that not penalized?” For his part, Harvey stated he “reacted first” in the attempt to fend off Rahal, and further 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.”
Asked earlier this week for his view on the matter, MSR co-owner Mike Shank backed his driver by saying, “We’re not going to get freaking pushed around. We’re not going to get shoved, period.”
While MSR is a single-car outfit, it shares a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport, which Rahal was quick to point out while sharing his thoughts on the subject this week.
“I don’t care what they say,” said the six-time race winner. “They can talk big all they want. I’ve got a lot of respect for Mike Shank. Jack Harvey came to me and apologized. ‘Guys like Graham still think I’m a part-timer.’ That’s a complete lie. Mike Shank is part of Andretti. The engineering staff is Andretti. We know they’re a serious contender week in and week out.
“They can come off and try to be tough if they want. They’re a great competitor. My issue with Jack wasn’t the block. The initial block is OK. When you’re next to a guy, you don’t need to keep going. At that point maybe you recognize, ‘OK, he’s there, let’s just not push him into the apron.’ Jack agreed.
“The initial movement, he moved right away. I had no problem with that. Once I’m next to you, give me the space and the respect. He acknowledged that. He was fine.
“I love Mike Shank – (we’re) both Columbus, Ohio boys. No one is trying to push him around. That’s not what this is about.”
Rahal believes the issue comes down to how incidents are enforced by race control. Using himself as a comparison, Rahal brought up his incident at Long Beach in 2019 where he was penalized and lost a podium result after race control deemed he blocked Scott Dixon in a spirited last-lap battle.
“This is about the consistency of officiating, doing the right things, not killing anybody,” Rahal said. “Blocking like that is one thing when you do it like I did to Dixon at Long Beach; it’s a different thing when you do at 230 (mph) in Texas. It just is. For me that was the conversation. It was just, ‘Hey, you know, we can’t be doing that.’ He agreed. Jack is a good dude, stand-up guy. So is Mike.
“Nobody is trying to push him around, trying to say they’re part-time. That’s long gone. We know they’re serious contenders. We know they’re going to be fast this month. Jack is always great at the Indy Grand Prix. We fully expect them to be good. I don’t think those comments are necessarily valid.”