After getting their feet wet last year with the Indianapolis 500, Michael Shank Racing is set to expand his operation further in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The organization has kept Jack Harvey on-board as the driver, signing a multi-year technical alliance with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which includes entering six events in 2018.
Recently, Popular Open Wheel’s Ashley McCubbin caught up with Harvey to get his thoughts on the opportunity.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What does it mean for you to have this opportunity?
JACK HARVEY: To get the opportunity in the first place is obviously something that we’ve been working really hard to do, just in general, to be able to try and be on the IndyCar grid on any capacity. I had a great experience with Michael at Indy in May, and he was just the guy that I wanted to go racing with – that’s simply the guy that I believed in. I believed in everybody at MSR. The goal was to try to get in IndyCar, and obviously, I’m beyond thrilled with how it worked out because I’m going into IndyCar with a team that I believe in with all my heart.
Really looking forward to going racing with that particular team. So everybody put an immense amount of effort and hard work trying to get it done, so I was pretty grateful and thankful and relieved when it actually did happen. So heading into Christmas, I’m feeling pretty good actually.
POW: What are your goals and expectations?
JACK: When I spoke to Michael initially when we talked about how this deal might look, etc etc, it was very much a case that we want to be competitive. I know that’s relative term, but being competitive to our teammates where they end up being on the grid. But honestly, mine and his goal both was to try and transfer in qualifying to the top 12 a couple times, and aiming for top-10’s if possible.
We’re not going in there and saying if we don’t win it’s a bad weekend or anything like that; we’re trying to keep it realistic. If we are hitting our expectations, then maybe the opportunity of getting on the podium is there. So I think right now we’re shooting for around the top-10 area, give or take a position or two. I think if we did that, we’d all be happy.
POW: Out of the races you’re getting to run, what are you most excited for?
JACK: Honestly, when you know the Indy 500 is one of the races that you’re going to do, it’s hard not to get really excited about that. It’s without a doubt the biggest race of the year. It’s certainly the biggest one that I’ve ever done, and the Greatest Spectacle of all of racing. In my opinion, there’s no doubt about that. One of the reasons I’m excited about going back to Indy is because I do believe together with Michael that we had a really good day that was brewing – but never got to show it. I got caught up in (Ryan) Hunter(-Reay)’s crash, caught some debris, popped a tire, and ended up not finishing the race.
I think the one of the most exciting things about this deal with Michael in the first place, genuinely, is the opportunity to go back to Indy and show this is what we thought we could achieve last year, and try to achieve this year. I think Indy, for multiple reasons, not just because of the Indy 500, but the opportunity to go back and deliver the result we were on the cusp of last year.
POW: Is there a possibility for your schedule to be expanded?
JACK: Absolutely. It’s something that we’re actually working on. I think we’ll cap it at some point throughout the year. Certainly next year won’t be a full-season, but I think between me, Michael, my management team, and the people he works with, certainly the goal is to add one or two more races outside of the six that we have locked in now. The first three will be St. Pete, Long Beach, and the Indy 500, but we’re hopeful to hit the track one or two more times than the six scheduled.
POW: Reflecting back on 2017, what are your thoughts?
JACK: I loved it. I loved every moment of it. Indy was a really tough month for a lot of different reasons. Honestly, we are not dwelling on that and are trying to move forward. But the whole Indy 500 experience was the best thing that I’ve ever done in my life, honestly. It was everything that I hoped it would be, and more. That, in a sense, gave you the taste that I want to keep doing this. That was a little bit of a rejuvenated spark because you get so close, and it doesn’t happen; in that moment it’s easy to lose a little bit of faith. But to get through Indy, it gave us a spot to build from.
Then I got to go to Watkins Glen, got to go to Sonoma. You know, I love being apart of Michael’s team, (and) I love being apart of Sam (Schmidt)’s team. Sam was the guy that brought me to North America in the first place. The nice thing about 2018 and the multi-year agreement we have is it combines the best experiences I had last year into one program which we’re hopeful will keep growing and moving forward.
POW: What was the biggest thing you learned in Indy Lights that carried forward to last year?
JACK: I think honestly the biggest thing was oval racing. I had never done any oval racing until I came to North America. Indy Lights was a good opportunity to learn that, learn how it works, and learn how the races play out. I spent a little time in the spotter’s stand. I think Indy Lights and the whole Mazda Road to Indy program is preparing drivers is preparing drivers extremely well for the next step.
I felt ready for the races that I did in IndyCar; I felt prepared. I think the teams are operating at a extremely high, and that step into IndyCar is manageable because I think they’re developing people to a high level. But I do think coming from my European background, I think oval racing was one of the biggest helps in doing Indy Lights beforehand.
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