Photo: IndyCar

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

3-time NHRA champ Larry Dixon gives back to save lives on the streets

Photo courtesy Larry Dixon Racing
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Three-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon is a man on a new mission: to save lives on the streets and highways as perhaps the fastest driving instructor in the world.

Because he’s not currently hurtling down a dragstrip at 330 mph on the NHRA national tour, Dixon is at a point where it was time for him to give back and help youngsters the way so many individuals helped him in his own life and career.

Much like when he became the protege of mentor Don “Snake” Prudhomme – first as a crew member and then as Prudhomme’s hand-picked choice to replace him when he retired as a driver – Dixon is now imparting some of his vast knowledge behind the wheel upon thousands of impressionable teens and young adults around the country.

Dixon recently signed on as an instructor with fellow former Top Fuel champ Doug Herbert’s nationally renowned B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) driver safety training program. Since Herbert formed the free, non-profit program in 2008 to honor the memory of sons Jon and James, who were both killed in a tragic car crash, B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained over 35,000 students across the U.S. and five countries to be better and safer drivers.

MORE: Drag racer Doug Herbert turns son’s deaths into program that has helped over 35,000 teens

After putting two of his own teen children through Herbert’s program (with a third child to go through the program soon), Dixon was so impressed with the training that his kids received that he told his old buddy he wanted to become involved with B.R.A.K.E.S.

“I’ve known Doug since we were in high school,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “We both worked at a chain of speed shops in Southern California, Doug at one in Orange County and me at one in the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys. We came up together racing Alcohol cars and Top Fuel cars kind of along the same lines. That’s how long I’ve known Doug.

Photo: Larry Dixon Racing

“I ran my son through the course a couple years ago when it came through Indianapolis (where Dixon and his family now live), and then my daughter signed up for a class a couple months ago, and that kind of got the talk going because I’m not on the (NHRA national event) tour now and I’ve got more time and the conversation just snowballed and here I am.

“I obviously believe in the deal if I ran my own kids through the system. The program is very methodical but still personal. When you put the kids in the car, you’ve got one instructor and three students, so they’re getting taught one-on-one almost.”

Even though he’s been driving for nearly 40 years, Dixon, 52, readily admits with a chuckle, “I’ve even learned things from the program already, which shows you’re never too old to learn.”

In a more serious vein, Dixon said from his perspective as both an instructor and a parent of two of the program’s graduates is how parents are so vital to the program’s impact.

“It’s mandatory that when you’re running a student through the program that at least one parent or guardian is also there, so the message you’re teaching the teens, you have to rely on the parent to not only be on the same page as what we’re teaching, but to also drive that message home for the rest of their lives.”

Dixon isn’t teaching students to drive 330 mph or to become aspiring drag racers. On the contrary. Dixon is right at home giving instructions on how students can avoid incidents or accidents on streets and highways at speeds typically between 30 and 50 mph.

“It’s more impactful as far as your legacy,” Dixon said of his motivation to teach. “Obviously, I’ve won a lot of races, but what I have to show for those wins are trophies but they’re in the basement, and if you don’t dust them, they get dusty.

“What I’m doing with B.R.A.K.E.S., you’re making a difference for people hopefully for the rest of their lives, and that’s bigger. I remember when I first got my own racing license. The first day I had my license, I was a race car driver but I wasn’t a great race car driver right away, I just had a license. It took a lot of years and a lot of runs and laps down the racetrack to be able to be good.

“It’s the same thing with a driver’s license. You go through the driver’s education course and such and they hand you your license, but that doesn’t make you a great driver. It takes a lot of road time to be able to get that experience. And the great thing about this course is you’re trying to ramp up that experience and put the teens in situations ahead of time so that when they’re in the real world, they’ll know how to react to them.

Larry Dixon is interviewed recently during his debut as a driving instructor for B.R.A.K.E.S. Photo courtesy B.R.A.K.E.S.

“These cars nowadays have so many safety features on them, but they don’t get taught. When you go through a basic driver’s education course, they don’t teach you that you can slam on the brakes and if you have an ABS (anti-lock) brake system, let alone how to use it, so that’s part of what we’re running the kids through. It lets them speed up and then slam on the brakes and feeling what ABS does and that a car isn’t going to spin out or flip over like you might see in a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. Most people don’t know what you can do with a car and how great cars will take care of you as long as they use the tools you’re supplied with.”

Dixon has already taught three different classes in the last month, with five more sessions scheduled primarily in the Midwest in the coming months. You can immediately hear the passion and self-satisfaction he’s getting from being a teacher.

“I really do enjoy it,” Dixon said. “You get to see the difference you can make in someone’s lives. When you get them on a skid course and they’re learning how to get out of a spin or slide, they’re having fun but also learning a valuable lesson.

“After they’ve taken the course, they have a bounce in their step and know and understand cars better and have a good time doing it. That’s what Doug has done, out of his tragedy, he’s really making a difference in other people’s lives. We’re not trying to turn the kids into Mario Andretti or anything like that … just to be better and safer drivers.”

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