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)

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.