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.”

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)