Photo courtesy of IMSA

Shank will finally take part in Indy 500 with Harvey, Andretti

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So, there’s that one major bit of Andretti Autosport news this morning involving McLaren, Honda, Fernando Alonso and the Indianapolis 500.

This will get overlooked but is great news for one of racing’s good guys and veteran team owners, as Michael Shank Racing will be part of the ownership group for Andretti’s previously announced fifth car, the No. 50 AutoNation Honda set to be driven by rookie Jack Harvey.

Shank made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut last year with an LMP2 Ligier JS P2 Honda, and had a potential opportunity for the Indianapolis 500 last year with Gabby Chaves fall through a few weeks before the race. He also announced a team to run in 2012, having bought a chassis, but could not procure an engine lease.

But now Shank, who runs two Acura NSX GT3s full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will be at the Speedway in a Honda-powered IndyCar.

Here’s the release below:

Michael Shank Racing will team with Andretti Autosport to campaign the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda/Dallara with driver Jack Harvey for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.

The collaboration marks the newest chapter for Columbus, Ohio-based Mike Shank, who competed as a driver in the open wheel ranks and made one IndyCar start in 1997 before moving to focus on team ownership.

That focus saw his team flourish in endurance sports car racing, having won the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona as well as leading the race in the team’s first-ever Le Mans 24 Hour start in 2016.

The Michael Shank Racing partnership with Andretti Autosport reflects the culmination of a lifetime of effort, as the team becomes one of the few organizations to contest the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Le Mans 24 Hour, and Indianapolis 500.

“It has been nearly 25 years since my wife Marybeth and I started this race team, so to have this opportunity finally come together—it is huge for us,” said Shank, who oversees the Acura NSX GT3 program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “We have been working to find a way to race in the Indianapolis 500 for years, and I’m grateful that our relationships have developed to put us in this position. Ever since we joined the Honda family, we’ve been able to continue to grow as a team and this is a great example of that. We are very excited to be working with the defending champions, and Jack (Harvey) is a very promising talent so we are thrilled to have this opportunity.”

Harvey has two Indy Lights victories to his credit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, scoring victories in both the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Freedom 100 on his way to runner-up in the 2015 Indy Lights championship after having won the British F3 championship in 2013.

“As everyone has read, the Month of May is going to be big for us. We’re really excited to be partnering with not only McLaren and Honda for Fernando Alonso, but also with Michael Shank Racing in a joint entry on the No. 50 for Jack Harvey,” said Michael Andretti. “Michael [Shank] and the partnership with his organization was instrumental in allowing us to run six cars in the 101st Indy 500. The six drivers and engineering teams will work closely together as we defend our win from 2016.”

MICHAEL SHANK RACING TEAM HIGHLIGHTS  

  • Winner of the Petit Le Mans in a Honda-Ligier (2016)
  • Winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona  (2012)
  • Set a new speed record in 2013 when Colin Braun completed a 222.971mph lap at Daytona International Speedway with the team’s Daytona Prototype
  • 6 Wins, 5 Poles, 35 podiums in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar competition –
  • 256 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starts (250 in Prototype, 6 in GTD)
  • Ninth in the team’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Debut in a Honda-Ligier (2016)

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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