Driver Jack Harvey and Michael Shank Racing are taking the next step in their Verizon IndyCar Series careers together, with veteran team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports lending a guiding hand.
Harvey and Michael Shank Racing joined forces for their series debut in May at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The team announced today at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis that they will pair again for at least six races on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
The agreement includes a technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, similar to what Shank’s team enjoyed with Andretti Autosport at Indy this year. Harvey, who also competed in the final two races of the 2017 season in a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, will drive a Honda with sponsorship from AutoNation and SiriusXM in the six races next season beginning with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11 and including the 102nd Indianapolis 500 in May 27.
Ironically, it was after a grueling month of May filled with a variety of odd issues in this year’s Indy 500, when Harvey finished a disappointing 31st after crashing out, that things for 2018 began coming together.
“It all started running Jack at the speedway with Andretti, actually,” Shank said. “That’s where we met and started building a relationship, not only with Jack but with AutoNation and SiriusXM. We found out that we have a lot of common things and a lot of long-term goals.
“So, in a lot of ways, it was literally the right place, right time. It’s a little cliché, but it’s exactly what happened here,” Shank continued. “We have like-minded people that began a relationship, went through ups and downs, got to see everyone at their best and at their worst, and decided, ‘Hey, you know, I think that we could really work well together if we had a chance and could do more than just the Indianapolis 500.’”
A highly successful and regarded team owner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Shank has been pushing for the “end goal” of his own full-time team in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He cautioned that the process is gradual, which led to a shared vision with SPM owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.
“We have a multiyear with Sam and our sponsors,” said Shank, whose sports car program won the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012 with a lineup that included the late Justin Wilson. Shank added that he isn’t sure when the team will operate without a technical partner in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“At some point, yes, we would like to do the whole series,” he said. “We’re going to do it when the time is right. I tell you, I’ve been in this business for – this will be my 23rd season – and we’ve never had layoffs. We’ve been very conservative, so that’s why we’re doing more testing and maybe less races. We’re only scheduled to do six so far because we’re going to ease ourselves into this for lots of reasons.
“But we’re setting ourselves up to be here for a long time and this is the first step.”
In addition to St. Pete and the Indy 500, the races planned are the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 15), Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29), Grand Prix of Portland (Sept. 2) and the season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Sept. 16). Should the opportunity arise, the KOHLER Grand Prix Road America (June 24) and/or Honda Indy Toronto (July 15) could be added.
Shank was adamant that the team will operate out of his shop in Columbus, Ohio, with visits to SPM’s base in Indianapolis for technical assistance.
“Ric, myself and everyone at SPM are really excited for this partnership with Mike Shank, his team and, of course, Jack Harvey, who we’re so pleased to welcome back into the organization,” said Schmidt. “We’re really looking forward to working with AutoNation and SiriusXM again as well. We continue to look for ways to strengthen our team and improve our core operations, and we think this multiyear partnership will do just that. Mike’s history in motorsport speaks for itself, and we’re pleased he has decided to expand his INDYCAR program and involving us in that endeavor.”
For Harvey, the deal for six races is the next step in his journey to become a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver after his career nearly stalled. Now 24, the native of Bassingham, Lincolnshire, England, was runner-up in back-to-back seasons driving for SPM in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – losing the title in the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder on a tiebreaker to Gabby Chaves in 2014 and finishing a close second to Spencer Pigot the following year.
Unable to land a Verizon IndyCar Series ride in 2016, Harvey cobbled together the three races this season, with a best finish of 14th in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen. His 2018 goal is to be competitive with his SPM teammates, James Hinchcliffe and fellow rookie Robert Wickens.
Harvey has full confidence in Shank’s vision and the team owner said the driver is “loyal” to the process.
“I believe in Michael,” said Harvey. “When we went through together at Indy (in May), he never wavered once. He never criticized me. There was obviously some things that were completely out of my hands and he never bailed in any of the process.
“We sat down in Detroit (the week following the Indy 500) and floated the idea at him and said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in this if we can try and put it together?’ We kept talking about it and it grew in pace. What I like about Michael is, although sometimes he delivers me the phone call that I’m not always wanting to have, he’s so honest and straight. He gives the absolute straightest answer possible and he’s just really easy to work with.
“I’ve really enjoyed that with him as a person. As a race team, he knows how to win. Everything that he’s competed in, he’s won, and I think that’s a really big factor that we considered. Because if you can be successful like he has been in everything he’s done, there’s no reason he won’t be in INDYCAR.
“I believe in him, I believe in his vision. He fills me with confidence. I’m looking forward to going racing for him.”