Is Jack Harvey poised to join Andretti’s Indy rookie star club?

Photo: IndyCar

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ask Jack Harvey about anything racing and you’ll likely get a standard answer, but ask him about his favorite show on TV at the moment – HBO’s genius tech satire “Silicon Valley” – and you’ll get even more of a response plus a few laughs.

And how does “Silicon Valley” tie into racing, you may ask? It’s not uncommon for young upstarts to blossom into becoming superstars in the industry, but only a select few make it while others flame out.

This intro provides the perfect background to consider that for racing’s young upstarts, Andretti Autosport is peak feeding ground for success, because they’ve provided unrivaled statistical success in recent times for Indianapolis 500 rookies.

In 2013, Carlos Munoz was known only to a select few folks who paid sincere attention to the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires. But Munoz developed his “own line” – call it his own algorithm for navigating Turn 1 of the 2.5-mile mecca that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and it produced rapid success. Munoz finished second to popular winner Tony Kanaan, and was actually disappointed with the result.

Flash forward to last year. Alexander Rossi was known to the world from his Formula 1 pursuit, the dogged determination of an American trying to make it Europe. Then he came back Stateside last minute and promptly won the 100th Indianapolis 500 in the fuel save, clutch-and-coast special heard ’round the world. And Munoz was second.

This is where Harvey enters the picture. The Englishman turns 24 next week and is right in that critical period of his career where he still could on the verge of being a success in Silicon Valley, or risk falling off the radar altogether. And Andretti Autosport is his incubator for his IndyCar debut, a place he couldn’t be happier to enter… probably because Erlich Bachman isn’t part of the team.

“It’s super surreal mate, to be honest with you,” Harvey told NBC Sports. “If you look at what Andretti have achieved with rookies, it’s an incredible opportunity. As a single-car addition for the race, you’re getting to do it with a team that’s won it two of the last three years, and had the strategy covered either way last year. For me to be a rookie as part of a great organization, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Life has given us lemons and now it’s time to do a good job with them. With this team’s experience, it’s definitely a confidence boost.”

Harvey came Stateside with support from the Racing Steps Foundation in 2014 after success in the GP3 Series, and could well have won the Indy Lights championship in his first crack at it. But despite a late-season flourish of wins on road course, Harvey lost a tiebreaker to Gabby Chaves.

The 2015 season was particularly brutal for him to come up short again. Pegged as the preseason championship favorite, Carlin’s Ed Jones upset the form book by winning the first three races, and then Juncos Racing’s Spencer Pigot promptly completed three weekend doubleheader sweeps. That’s nine races lost there for Harvey, and despite his own month of May sweep at IMS on both the road course and the Freedom 100, his title hopes came unglued down the stretch, particularly during a contentious weekend with contact with Jones at Mid-Ohio.

Harvey sought to put an IndyCar deal together regardless for 2016, while Pigot and Jones have now advanced into IndyCar themselves on the strength of their Indy Lights titles and the $1 million Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarships that went with it.

Without racing, Harvey has stayed in the game as a coach for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indy Lights team in 2016 and now for Neil Alberico, the Rising Star Racing-backed driver, at Carlin this year. But it was not easy for Harvey to keep his spirits up as he questioned how he could keep his dream alive.

“I think last year I made a conscious decision to come back just to be around,” he said. “I love living here. I love Indy with the people and the racing here. Everyone’s welcomed me with open arms. I didn’t have a drive. It was tough to stay motivated. We kept grinding.

“I’ll be first to admit the last 18 months have been the most challenging personally I’ve had to deal with. But to get it over the line now is a big weight off the shoulders.”

Of the three 2015 title rivals, it’s now only Jones and Harvey confirmed for May – Pigot’s status is surprisingly questionable now because Ed Carpenter Racing has ruled out a third car – and it’s Harvey’s chance to deliver.

Naturally, it takes a commercial partner to make it happen and longtime Andretti sponsor AutoNation is going in on a bigger role. Harvey’s program comes down in large part to the connections there.

There’s another thing that makes this entry notable: the No. 50. There’s an AutoNation connection with 50 million customers served over more than 20 years. And there’s an Indianapolis 500 connection, as well – the last time anyone raced the No. 50 there, in 2012, Dario Franchitti won the race by defeating Harvey’s now-teammate Takuma Sato, whose Turn 1 pass attempt failed.

“By racing the No. 50 car, Jack is celebrating the 50 million customers AutoNation has serviced over the last 20 years, who show their encouragement through their Pink Plates to benefit breast cancer research. The entire AutoNation team will be rooting for Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay on race day,” AutoNation CMO and EVP Marc Cannon said in a release.

Harvey could only laugh when hearing the Franchitti nugget, wondering if that meant there was more pressure. Given that all five of Andretti Autosport’s cars qualified in the top 11 last year and any of Munoz, Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell had a realistic shot at winning it, Harvey thinks a top-10 finish for his debut is within range.

“To give a realistic projection, if we parked it in the top 10, I think that’d be a pretty solid result,” he explained. “Rookie-of-the-year would be mega. If the opportunity to win was there, of course you’d take it. But you need to finish and be smart first, go and try to make top-10, and see how testing and quali goes. I think that’s a strong starting point. I don’t want to be that guy to say, ‘win or bust.’ That’s not what this is about. It’s about showcasing what I can do, and how well can I do it, and see if they’ll be keen to bring me back for another race.”

This is Harvey’s opportunity and he’s determined to see his maiden month of May come good.

“There’s so much experience to pull upon,” he said. “When you have so many good teammates, not to sound cliché, but it massively helps. I’m excited to be a part of it and with one of the best teams in the world. It’s an amazing achievement really. Even people in the U.K. who don’t know much about America know Andretti Autosport.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)