Jack Harvey still chasing full-time IndyCar seat

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BIRMINGHAM – 2014 and 2015 Indy Lights runner-up Jack Harvey is working on securing a drive with either Dale Coyne Racing or Bryan Herta Autosport for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Harvey lost the 2014 Indy Lights title on a tiebreak to Gabby Chaves before being edged out by Spencer Pigot in 2015, narrowly missing out on an assured place in IndyCar on both occasions.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk on Friday at Autosport International in Birmingham, England, Harvey confirmed that he is working hard to secure a place on the IndyCar grid for 2016 with either Dale Coyne Racing or Bryan Herta Autosport, and has one particularly in mind.

“You can look through the grid and realize who’s not signed drivers yet,” Harvey said.

“I’ve had conversations with Dale and I get on really well with Bryan. He’s been a great guy who’s helping me talk to some of my sponsors.

“We’re hopeful that something could happen with one of them. I know where I would like to end up. I’d like to be on the IndyCar grid, that’s the priority.

“But if I could do it with one guy in particular that would be very good.”

Ironically, Chaves drove for Herta this past season and won both Indianapolis 500 and season-long rookie-of-the-year honors. While Chaves has been reportedly close to continuing for months, it’s understood nothing is finalized for him to continue in a second year just yet.

Harvey had been close to moving up within Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to race alongside the returning James Hinchcliffe in 2016, only for Russian racer Mikhail Aleshin to secure the seat.

“I thought we were looking quite good for the seat,” Harvey said. “Then I got a call from Sam and some of the team members like ‘hey… you know, Mikhail’s talking to us’ and I knew he had been, but it seemed like his conversations seemed to pick up.

“I was like… ‘OK, well, what do I need to do?’ I think it had already not necessarily slipped away because we were still talking to them and trying to agree the budget.

“I think Mikhail came in with a sizeable amount more than we did, but I had a great two years with everyone at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.”

Should an IndyCar seat fail to materialize for 2016, Harvey would be open to moving into either the FIA World Endurance Championship or IMSA in the short term.

“If we can’t get a drive, then I think the next best thing would be WEC, obviously,” Harvey said. “Le Mans would be great to do, or something in IMSA because I’ve really enjoyed America and I’d like to continue racing out there.

“The beauty is that if I can’t get into IndyCar then all three of those programmes could run parallel together. Definitely options, a couple of things we could exercise quite quickly if I needed to.

“Even if I did take a year in WEC or sports cars, I’d be quickly looking to step back in [to IndyCar]. We’ll take the opportunities we get as they arrive and hopefully make the most of it.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”