Harvey and Shank. Photo: IndyCar

Perseverance, patience pays off for Shank, Harvey partnership

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Dogged determination is a phrase that can be used to describe Mike Shank, a racing lifer whose eponymous team based just outside Columbus, Ohio has survived and thrived for north of 20 years.

Patient persistence is one that can be used to describe Jack Harvey, the Englishman whose American dream has taken a few years to properly realize.

Their mutual dedication combined with Shank’s Honda relationship and Harvey’s relationship with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports helped produce a likable new entry for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with a six-race program in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda to start off in the first year of a multi-year program.

You should know Shank’s story if you’ve followed him in the past, but the cliff notes version is this. A driver turned team owner who has both high reputation and integrity from various paddocks tried to become an IndyCar team owner for 2012 in addition to his sports car program. He bought a car, but couldn’t get an engine lease.

This soured him at the time but he continued winning in sports car racing. A popular overall triumph at the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 50th anniversary edition, was the team’s biggest win with the quartet of Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and the late, great, Justin Wilson.

Although the initial hurt of not getting into IndyCar stung, Shank wouldn’t give up on the dream. Circumstances brought Harvey to Shank’s Indianapolis 500 entry last year in tandem with Andretti Autosport, and so both of their IndyCar careers were finally able to take hold.

It was the adversity the unit fought through all month and the relationship established that has led to now, as both Shank and Harvey explained during the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

“At any point, there were a lot of times when he could have just flat given up, and he just didn’t,” Shank told NBC Sports. “I just kept talking to him ‘Jack, we’re on this.’ When things went wrong, we knew why they went wrong, which is always actually good to know. It was not our fault, but it didn’t matter, it happened anyway. We got through it, and once we got through those first three or four days, we were fine. And in fact, a historical note, if you go back and look at the practice before qualifying, at Indy, we were eighth quickest, with a 231.8 (mph). I was really happy with where we were.”

Schmidt, Steve Eriksen (HPD), Harvey and Shank. Photo: IndyCar

Shank explored a partnership continuation with Andretti Autosport for 2018, but it didn’t make sense for either party. With SPM available to run a third car in a technical partnership and with Harvey already having the established relationship there, that made more sense for all parties.

“I’ll say one thing that I haven’t mentioned to anybody here today (at PRI), we had a great relationship with Andretti,” Shank explained. “We talked to them about this program a little bit, because we had that program with them before, and it just didn’t work for both parties. I have a lot of respect for what Michael’s done over there and J.F. Thormann. It just didn’t line up.

“With Sam and I: we’ve trying to do it for a while and it lined up. It made sense.”

Harvey recapped the unlikely union between he and Shank, but noted how much support and dedication Shank gave to him despite the two not knowing each other before May.

“How we even met was kind of random,” Harvey told NBC Sports. “It wasn’t what either of us thought we were going to do at the (Indy 500). And that relationship grew very quickly. I think it grew quickly because of the difficulties we went though, which I don’t think are a bad thing.

“Detroit immediately followed Indy and we sat down at a meeting at whatever hotel he was staying in and we said ‘This is what we’re looking to do in the future. Is there any interest to do it with us?’ He then expressed an interest to do it with us, and then we went back to SiriusXM and AutoNation and said ‘Look, this is what we’re trying to do. This is how we want to finish off ’17 and this is what we want to move to in the future.’”

Harvey gathered enough from those two supporters to run the final two races of 2017 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in its No. 7 Honda, which had seen a revolving door of drivers after Mikhail Aleshin and the team mutually parted ways. Having two races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma, two more traditional race weekends instead of the month-long slog that is Indianapolis, allowed Harvey to get his feet wet in a more normal manner.

“The ‘500 itself is a unique beast. There’s nothing quite like the month of May. I’ll be the first to say it’s a slog, it’s a grind, and it’s a grind for everybody. Every single person who goes, goes to work,” Harvey said.

“Throughout the 500, there was nothing that happened that didn’t think I could, you know. Maybe I needed a bit more time and a bit more experience, but I believed I could do it.

“We went to the road courses and I feel like I backed it up, I was certainly comparable to (James Hinchcliffe), who was my teammate those weekends. I felt good. Again, I felt that, given a bit of time, I know I could do this.

“We sat down with Michael and had about as frank of a conversation as you could expect, one that when the phone rang I probably wasn’t expecting it. And it was along the lines of ‘Can you do this?’ I was like ‘I can do this. I absolutely can do it.’ I believe in myself. We have modest expectations for next year that are realistic, and honestly if we’re right in that window, maybe we will surprise a few people on some weekends.”

Shank’s often been known as doing a lot with a little; that being said, he has a solid core of local companies who are longtime supporters. Thanks to long-running partnerships with Curb Records, CAP and Associates, Rocky Fork Company, and Roberts Service Group, all have helped allow Shank’s dual programs next year both in IndyCar and his Acura NSX GT3 program in IMSA.

“There are so many positives that are going on right now. It’s been really difficult to get this together. A lot of credit on the IndyCar side goes to Jack (Harvey) and his guy Bob Perona,” said Shank (editor’s note: Harvey now has new representation from MBK Sports Management, a full-service sports agency founded by long-time NFL agent and attorney Eugene T. Lee).

“For us it’s just keep pushing, don’t give up, we’ll find another way to do it, and we just kept on it. Truly, the AutoNation/Sirius XM (partnership) is what pushed it over. These people really believe in us and we want to over-deliver for them and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The team will run a loaned SPM chassis for its initial testing in January before moving to Shank’s newly purchased chassis in February. Will Anderson, a longtime junior engineer with SPM, will be Harvey’s race engineer. The program will run St. Petersburg, Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500 for sure, with Shank still finalizing which other three races they’ll do – but he expects they’ll be road or street course races.

Harvey, meanwhile, now has a multi-year plan to build upon with Shank and Schmidt Peterson. This comes as a welcome relief after not having any racing in 2016 and just keeping his face present as SPM’s Indy Lights driver coach, then doing a mix of coaching and driving last year.

“It’s a huge relief. I’ve gone from having nothing in ’16, like no racing at all, to trying to put together something for ’17,” he said. “There was a late ‘500” deal, there was a late last two races deal.

“To know what we have for next year is going to be ironed out, there’s going to be some testing before it – dude, I’m a lucky person, there’s no doubting that. That being said, we’ve worked incredibly hard to get back to this point. So we’ll take a little bit of the good fortune that comes with that.

“It’s nice to have it wrapped away for Christmas. I’m going to go back to the U.K. on the 22nd of December, shut the phone down for probably three or four days, and enjoy Christmas with my family, because without them, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve got a great management team, a lot of people who I need to thank for making it happen. Honestly, the multi-year agreement part of it is hopefully my opportunity to say thank you.”

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after qualifying for the KOHLER Grand Prix

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Here’s what the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers had to say, courtesy of IndyCar Media Relations, after Saturday qualifying for the KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s nice when you have the car to do it. We had the speed on Friday, so to finish it off today is nice. It’s only goal one. Two races; one for pole, one for the race. We need to close it out. Verizon has been very good to us, and Team Chevy as well. Engine package has been phenomenal to get the most out of it. You see how well we work together with Team Penske and Team Chevy. We just have to be smart and get through the first couple laps. Save the tires, save some fuel and be smart if a caution comes out in the middle of the race. We’ll see what we have for tomorrow.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Tough qualifying today. We’ve been struggling a little bit finding the best setup for the car. We need to concentrate for tomorrow so that we have a great car for the race. It’s a long race and you never know what can happen. We will keep working, improving and doing our best and will try to have a top 10 tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We’re struggling a little bit with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) – we just didn’t find the gain like everybody else did. I’m not entirely sure, honestly. Obviously, Robbie (Wickens) is doing well, so it’s a bit of a mystery for us. We went more towards his (Wickens’) setup and the balance kind of went out the window for me. It’s weird because we’ve been able to copy and paste setups all year long between the two of us and it just didn’t work here. I feel bad for the Arrow Electronics boys – obviously, the car’s capable of more. We just didn’t get it today.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Overall, it’s been a good weekend – we’ve still never been out of the top five in every session. Hopefully, me and the Lucas Oil boys can keep chipping away and come up with a slightly better car for the race tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): 
“I just didn’t think we had great space to work in out there on the track. There were about five other guys before us and they are all trying to get their spacing right, as well. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just there’s a tight window for everything. Maybe we should have waved off a third lap on the black (Firestone primary) tires and got ourselves better time on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). It is what it is, though, and we only really had one lap to try and get something going. Then, we had people starting to back up in front of us and never got to show our speed. I think the PNC Bank car had enough for the Firestone Fast Six, but we’ll have to show that speed tomorrow in the race.”

ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):
 “The guys on the First Data car made some great changes today after we struggled a little bit early on in the weekend here at Road America. That was the most confident I’ve felt with the car so far this weekend and I felt we were going in the right direction. We were capable of being in the Firestone Fast Six today, but we got held up a bit. On the upside, we have a really fast First Data car and something we can use to improve on up the grid for tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “That was close. We were off the whole time. I gave it everything the last lap. A surprise front row. I keep getting front rows every weekend. Not the pole, but yeah, I’m pretty happy. But only five hundredths off, come on. I think I did a really neat lap. Josef (Newgarden) did a great lap. That was all I had.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): 
“I got traffic on my fast lap, but it would have just put us in the top 13, not enough to advance. The car is understeering all weekend. We tried something overnight that didn’t work, so it put us behind a session and we’re back to the car we had yesterday. It was the same car, so we were going to do the same lap time as yesterday when we tried the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but getting traffic didn’t help. But it wasn’t going to change a lot – maybe a few positions, which always helps, but we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): “We wanted to be further up and get the GEHL Honda in the top six. We’ve started in the top six every year, but there was nothing more in the car today. For maybe the first time this year, I’m confident saying that; there was nothing more. We only lacked one-tenth (of a second) over four miles from fourth (place), but that’s what Indy car racing is now. Yeah, we qualified ninth, but when you think that a tenth of a second over four-plus miles can move you five spots, it’s crazy, but that’s the reality of Indy car. We’ve just got to try to find a little more improvement for tomorrow, make the car a little more consistent for the race, and hopefully, we can go out there and attack. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions for the race. There is no warmup this year, so we’ll see how it goes.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): (About if he feels he’s in a good position to win tomorrow): “Yeah, I don’t know. I’d like to say so, but I’m not sure I believe it myself. It’s been a bit of a tough day. I thought after yesterday we thought we had everything under control, and things were looking good, and this morning we rolled out and struggled with grip and then we went into qualify and really struggled for good. I think I only did one good lap to be honest with you in Q2 on that new set of option tires. Everything was really scrappy and really difficult to put anything together. In (the Firestone Fast Six), I really didn’t get anything done properly. We tried one lap on both sets, but I’m not convinced it was the right thing to do – hindsight 20/20. Just one of those where you come out of the car and you’re not quite sure what else you should or would have done, but not super happy with the way things have gone. The guys did a really good job, but I just — yeah, I’m struggling to read anything that’s happening out there, it’s up and down, making a lot of mistakes, so don’t really feel great about it.

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “It’s so competitive out there. I thought we had a really good chance at doing better in qualifying, but we ended up on the wrong end of the timing sheet. We just missed making it to the second round by a few tenths, so that’s a bit disappointing. That said, tomorrow is a long race and a lot can happen. I’m confident we can move up the field and get that good result we’ve been chasing the last few races.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “We’ve been making progress throughout the weekend, little steps at a time and qualifying was our best session yet. The car is now performing within that half-second window of the front of the field. There’s always that last hundredth of time left to get, so I’m a bit annoyed that we didn’t get it, but it was still a pretty good lap. I got as much as I could out of the car. There was just a little bit of oversteer out of Turn 12 and that’s probably the half a tenth that we needed to transfer. I would have liked to have got through to the next round, but it was still a decent effort considering how much progress we’ve made.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “Qualifying was definitely a solid improvement. It’s nice to have the Direct Supply car in the top 10 to start the race tomorrow. We’ve been making pretty big changes every session and we hadn’t really found anything that worked until qualifying. We were struggling with the front of the car in some places and the rear of the car in other places, we just had to try and tack it down a little bit. Obviously, it helped being on new tires and the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the car has come alive – certainly a step in the right direction. To only be a tenth or so off the Firestone Fast Six, compared to where we were in practice, is a really good improvement. I’m happy with that, but we want to be higher up and we’ll try for that tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “That’s not the result that we’re all here for, obviously, and I think everyone here at Carlin is disappointed with that qualifying result, but at the same time I know Max (Chilton) and I both have a lot of confidence in this team and our engineering staff. We’ll look at all of the data tonight and learn from each other and try to come up with a plan for tomorrow’s race. The nice thing is that we’re still learning and we’re still constantly making progress, so it’s not like we’re out of options. We still have a lot left to try and a lot left to learn, so we’ll just keep moving forward.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “This weekend so far has been really good for us just confidence-wise. To show the speed that we have, I think we deserve to be in the top six – the car definitely does. I just made a mistake and just overdrove the reds (Firestone alternate tires) in the top 12 trying to make into the Firestone Fast Six. I calmed myself down and gathered it up, but I could only get us up to 11th. We have a great race car and I’m excited to see what we can do on race day.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “We can do a lot from fourth. It’s always disappointing when you lead your two groups and miss out on the pole, but it’s so close. It’s amazing that around a four-mile track, it’s so tight. It’s just a testament to get to the championship, but huge hats off to the whole NAPA Know How team. We really struggled yesterday afternoon and made some good decisions overnight that paid off.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We didn’t test here, so we were a bit behind the 8-ball, but we made the right changes and I think we put a good effort out today. I was hoping to go one better at practice and be P2, but starting third is somewhere we can work from tomorrow in the race. It’s going to be interesting with no warmup tomorrow and trying to get the right setup on the race car, but it’s the same for everybody. We have an idea with where we are with older tires, so we’ll try and estimate where we need to be with the setup and put our best effort out there. To fight at it from third is a good thing, so we can do it from there.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “It was definitely a good day. The entire team worked extremely well. The No. 30 boys always have, but it is great to give them back a nice position in qualifying. We were just four hundredths (of a second) off from the top six (in Round 2) and that shows how competitive the field is. I’m extremely happy to start seventh, which is the best position here so far. It’s a long race. We believe we have a strong car for the race, so I’m looking forward to having a strong result.”

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Today we had no issues, which was important. Yesterday was for sure a setback, as we needed to run the whole day so that we could experiment with the red (alternate) Firestone tires and the softer compound. So not being able to run on the red tires yesterday really did not help our qualifying effort today. It is what it is at this point, so we will come back tomorrow and be ready to run a good race.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “Even though the results might not have shown it, I think we made a lot of progress here today at Road America. We definitely closed the gap from the beginning of the weekend and I really felt like I got everything out of the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet that I could. With us starting where we are tomorrow, we’ll have the freedom to try a completely different strategy, and hopefully, we can come away from a track I love with a decent result.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Yet another tough qualifying session for us as we search to find the speed we need to get. We’re going to take a look overnight, and hopefully, we can figure something out for the race. Hopefully, we set ourselves up for a fun race and get to pass a lot of cars.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “We’ve been slipping backward ever since Practice 1 on the time sheets and just missed it. We’re a little bit loose there. I don’t think I got the most out of Lap 1 and we’re outside looking in by three tenths (of a second), so it’s not like we were that close. Hopefully, we’re better with (tire degradation) than we were with new tires. The race is obviously a different pace, but you still want to start further up than 15th.”

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