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Shank, SPM, Harvey, HPD link up for partial 2018 IndyCar program

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INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Shank’s dream of becoming an IndyCar team owner was realized with his debut at last year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, running in partnership with Michael Andretti and with driver Jack Harvey.

Two of those three components are reunited for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season as they both look to grow their respective careers and gain a bigger foothold in this series.

Shank and Harvey are back together again, with Harvey’s other 2017 team – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – serving as the third member of this unit for a technical partnership .

The part-time effort will run the AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda for Michael Shank Racing with SPM for at least six races in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with St. Petersburg, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma Raceway races confirmed and more to be added.

“I’m so happy to have everything come together and to be able to make this announcement—there was a ton of work that went into just getting to this point, and of course it is just the start,” said Shank. “This is a very big deal— for me and my wife Mary Beth, and for my race team. We are really excited to have Jack (Harvey) back with us, and very focused on making the most of this multi-year program. It is a big undertaking but I’ve been working on this nonstop, every day for months to have everything in place for us to be able to go out and build a competitive program.”

“Ric, myself and everyone at SPM are really excited for this partnership with Mike Shank, his team and, of course, Jack Harvey who we’re so pleased to welcome back into the organization,” added Sam Schmidt. “We’re really looking forward to working with AutoNation and SiriusXM again as well. We continue to look for ways to strengthen our team and improve our core operations, and we think this multi-year partnership will do just that. Mike’s history in motorsport speaks for itself, and we’re pleased he has decided to expand his INDYCAR program and involving us in that endeavor.”

This brings Honda’s engine lease number up to 13 cars for 2018, this car joining the 12 full-time carried over entries from Andretti Autosport, SPM, Chip Ganassi Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

Andretti’s team runs four cars with each of the other four teams running two; Honda has stated it can supply a maximum of 13 cars at non-Indianapolis 500 events, and the manufacturer has gone up to 18 engine leases for that race.

Harvey. Photo: IndyCar

“I’m absolutely thrilled for this to come together and for everything to be moving forward,” said Harvey. “I had a very positive experience racing for Mike Shank in the Indianapolis 500, and it was great to build on that with SPM in the last two races of the year. Now to be racing for Mike and to also have the support of SPM for this program, it is the best of both worlds for me. I want to do as well as we possibly can for AutoNation and SiriusXM,  and I cannot wait for St. Pete to get here.”

AutoNation’s Chief Marketing Officer and EVP, Marc Cannon said, “Jack is a talented, dynamic young driver,” Cannon went on to say, “AutoNation is excited to partner with Jack, SiriusXM  and the Michael Shank Racing team.”

“Jack Harvey and Michael Shank Racing are a great team and we are pleased to support them as they expand their IndyCar race schedule,” said Jim Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, SiriusXM.  “We were proud to sponsor them in last year’s Indy 500, and we look forward to having SiriusXM represented on the car for several races this coming year, starting with the IndyCar season-opener in St. Petersburg.”

The English driver who now lives in Indianapolis took over SPM’s No. 7 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda for the final two races this year and acquitted himself decently well, hoping to lay a foothold for further races in 2018. Harvey and Shank remained in contact immediately after the month of May to begin building for additional races.

Shank, meanwhile, has long sought a greater IndyCar program beyond his two toe-in-the-water attempts. Despite buying a new chassis before 2012, no engine manufacturer worked with him and faced with a Lotus-or-bust effort, Shank opted instead to sell his chassis and bow out before ever turning a wheel.

The collaborative effort with Andretti at this year’s Indianapolis 500 was a proper effort with a Honda engine, with Shank’s sports car crew running the Andretti-prepared car. The team and driver fought through adversity throughout the month and showcased steady improvement.

Harvey and Shank rolled through the ups and downs of Indy. Photo: IndyCar

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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