At the start of the 2017 season, Jack Harvey was a driver without a team, and Meyer Shank Racing’s fledgling IndyCar team was without a driver.
The two parties got together for the Indy 500 that year, where Harvey finished 31st as a rookie, and have stayed together ever since, gradually and developing into what hopes to become a full-time team in the NTT IndyCar Series for the 2020 season and beyond.
MSR, with a technical alliance with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, has made significant strides in a short period of time, and will be entered in a total of 10 races this season. After posting back-to-back P10 finishes at St. Pete and COTA, the team scored a huge breakthrough Saturday at the Indy GP when they started and finished third to earn the team’s first-ever podium finish in the team’s 14th IndyCar race.
Needless to say, for Harvey, who didn’t have a ride in 2016 after six wins, 18 podiums and back-to-back, runner-up finishes in the Indy Lights series in 2015-16, it was an emotional moment. And to finish on the podium with race-winner Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon made it even more so.
“To qualify third, to finish third I think was a result that if you’d have offered it to us before the weekend started we would have taken it, and hopefully this is just that springboard for us. Hopefully it gives us some good momentum throughout the rest of this month, but also looking forward to the future, to the end of 2019 and looking forward to 2020.
“To share the podium with both of those guys I think is pretty special. Our first podium in IndyCar today, and hopefully it’s the first of a few, and we’re just going to keep using it to keep learning, get more experience, and hopefully it won’t be as much of a shock when we get in here again.”
The momentum for a finish like this had been building all season. After the P10 finishes to start the season, Harvey finished 13th at Barber, the result of a drive-through penalty. At Long Beach, he had a difficult qualifying session and started 18th, but saw his race derailed in the opening corners when he was hit by Marcus Ericsson and launched into the flowers near the iconic fountain. He eventually lost three laps and finished 22nd.
But the team has shown good speed all season, and finally made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time for the GP. With the cars taking the track Tuesday for Indy 500 practice, the Month of May couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
“I think we’ve been on the edge of a good result like this for a while,” Harvey said, “but actually trying to gel those pieces, put it all together have been tricky, so that’s why I think you have to enjoy every podium, every win that comes, especially in this place because I feel like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a racing driver’s Neverland. It’s where we come to try and not get old.”
Harvey feels like one of the keys to the season so far is that the team has been at every test session, practice and race, which makes for a consistency for both driver and team. While they only have four races left after this — unless more sponsorship materializes — that consistency has helped enough that they are in a much better place in a shorter period of time.
“From last year at Sonoma to exactly today, we haven’t missed any testing. We’ve not missed any practicing. We’ve not missed anything,” Harvey said. “Our schedule slows down a little bit after the 500, but for me the momentum that I would have been able to gain, the confidence just by being in the car, at least as often as everybody else, has been great because things feel normal to me, then the next weekend I can go out and start immediately working on techniques and issues and this is how I’m going to find speed, be a bit smoother here, think about this braking shape or whatever it is. That being said, I think it’s really helpful for the team, as well. The whole team really are gelling and are in sync, and just unfortunately it takes time.
“I think this year, I look at the season so far, and without my drive-through penalty in Barber, which was just a self-inflicted error, I think we would have had four Top 10s in five races, which that would have been pretty awesome at the start of the year, if you said, hey, you’re going to achieve that, would you take it now, and we absolutely would have all taken it now. So I don’t think it’s exclusive just to the driver on building a rhythm, feeling comfortable, gaining more confidence. I think that applies to the team, as well.”
Timing is everything in racing, and the stars definitely aligned to get Harvey and Shank together. It looks to be a partnership that appears to get better and stronger in the future.
Photo credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar Media