Newest team owners take variety of routes to Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018

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Trevor Carlin. Mike Harding. Ricardo Juncos. Michael Shank. All are racing team owners, all are successful businessmen, but all four took different paths getting their teams to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series grid.

For Carlin and Juncos, open-wheel racing is their business, but neither came to INDYCAR the same way.

Carlin built his organization in Europe, racing in numerous single-seater series with championship victories from drivers such as Takuma Sato, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Jack Harvey, Mikhail Aleshin and Lando Norris.

In November 2014, Carlin announced he would be entering the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season and found immediate success with Ed Jones winning the team’s first three races in the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. After finishing third in the championship, Carlin returned in 2016 and Jones won the championship. The team expanded to four cars in 2017.

However, Carlin still had another goal. On Dec. 12, the team announced a two-car Verizon IndyCar Series effort with drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball. Both have driven and won for Carlin in the past.

“We’re delighted to finally be able to announce our entry into the Verizon IndyCar Series, the result of a long-term ambition of the team,” team owner Carlin said. “By no means do we underestimate the challenge and competition that lies ahead, but I have great faith in the young and passionate team that our team manager Colin (Hale) and I have put together.”

Ricardo JuncosIn Ricardo Juncos’ case, open-wheel racing was the next step in building his racing empire in America. After immigrating to the U.S. in 2002 from Argentina, Juncos started a karting team. Finding immediate success, the organization moved to open-wheel cars in the mid-2000s.

The team advanced to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires (then known as Star Mazda), winning the 2010 title with Conor Daly. Since then, Juncos Racing has added Pro Mazda Championship titles in 2014 and 2017 with Spencer Pigot and Victor Franzoni, respectively, and expanded into Indy Lights, winning championships in 2015 (Pigot) and 2017 (Kyle Kaiser).

In 2016, the team moved to a new race shop in Speedway, Indiana, ahead of an announcement that it would enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Pigot returned to the team alongside Sebastian Saavedra with both cars finishing the race in Juncos Racing’s Verizon IndyCar Series debut. In 2018, the team will run at least four races with Kaiser.

“We have an opportunity now with Kyle to continue with him, so we are obviously evaluating how we can make it happen,” Juncos said. “We’re working really hard with a sponsor, obviously trying to put a whole season together.”

Michael Shank started as a driver, racing in SCCA club racing before moving up to Toyota Atlantics and winning the 1996 C2 championship for older Atlantics cars. He then moved up to the Verizon IndyCar Series, driving in the 1997 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing 16th. After retiring from driving, Michael Shank Racing operated in Atlantics with drivers such as Sam Hornish Jr. and Ryan Dalziel before moving to sports cars.

Michael ShankShank found success there, winning the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona with AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri and John Pew. In May 2017, Shank returned to Indy car racing as a team owner, collaborating with Andretti Autosport to enter driver Jack Harvey at the Indianapolis 500. Harvey finished 31st after getting caught up in an accident on Lap 65.

That did not deter Shank, who decided to enter a limited schedule in 2018 in a technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Harvey will drive the car for at least six races.

“There was a ton of work that went into just getting to this point and, of course, it is just the start,” said Shank. “This is a very big deal for me and my wife Mary Beth, and for my race team. We are really excited to have Jack back with us, and very focused on making the most of this multiyear program. It is a big undertaking, but I’ve been working on this nonstop, every day for months to have everything in place for us to be able to go out and build a competitive program.”

Mike Harding took a different route to team ownership. He owns Harding Group, a paving and construction company in Indianapolis that has performed work at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the years. Harding’s interest in racing grew and he formed a team to run Gabby Chaves in the 2017 Indy 500, with longtime Indy car mechanic and team manager running the operation. Chaves finished an impressive ninth and fared well in two additional oval races later in the season.

“Harding Group has been involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 18 years and as an official sponsor since 2016,” Harding said. “Larry Curry was an existing employee at Harding Transport and, through continuous conversations, I decided I wanted to grow my involvement and enter the Indianapolis 500. After finishing ninth at the 500, we were able to enter two more events in 2017. With the success of 2017, we decided to increase our efforts, we have added several key staff members including Brian Barnhart (formerly INDYCAR’s vice president of competitions/race director) as team president to achieve our goals.”

The team’s goal for 2018 is a full season with Chaves at the wheel, though no official announcement of that plan has come to date. Regardless, the Verizon IndyCar Series will see a fresh influx of four aspiring team owners looking to join the winning ranks alongside the likes of Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi and Michael Andretti in 2018.

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