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IndyCar at Mid-Ohio: Jack Harvey ready to make most of first start since Indy 500

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When you are scheduled to compete in just six IndyCar races this season, patience is a virtue.

And that certainly describes Jack Harvey. It’s been nearly two months since he last competed in an IndyCar race, finishing 16th in the Indianapolis 500.

For some people, missing two months and the six races since Indy an eternity. But Harvey is more than ready to get back into the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda, and he’ll do just that in this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

“We’re excited to be back in the car,” Harvey told MotorSportsTalk. “We’re doing six races this year, which means we’re missing a few more than we are actually racing at.

“But honestly, every time we get the opportunity to go back in, we’re absolutely buzzing and are so excited.”

Harvey will once again be in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda, which is a joint partnership between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Meyer Shank Racing (co-owners Michael Shank of Michael Shank Racing and SiriusXM Satellite Radio CEO Jim Meyer).

“I’m really surrounded by two really fantastic teams,” Harvey said. “Everybody at Meyer Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, they’re behind me 100 percent.

“The goal for this year is just to improve every weekend. If we could win, absolutely, we’ll give it our best go. But we’re also realistic with our expectations, as well.”

This weekend’s race will be the fourth of the 2018 season for the 25-year-old Bassingham, England native.

Thus far, he’s competed in the season opener at St. Petersburg (finished 23rd, exited after just 38 of 110 laps), Long Beach (12th) and the Indy 500 (16th).

“Honestly, even St. Petersburg, we were running well, running fifth place, and then we had a random tire blow out, the right rear just popped,” Harvey said.

“The team didn’t see anything before it happened in the telemetry and I didn’t feel anything before it happened. So, that was a little bit of an anomaly.”

Even though St. Petersburg didn’t turn out the way he hoped, there’s still a lot to be said that Harvey subsequently completed all 85 laps at Long Beach and all 200 at Indy.

“Every weekend, we want to see the checkered flag at the end of the race, that’s at the top of our priority list,” Harvey said. “Hopefully at Mid-Ohio, if we can qualify in the top 12 and race in the top 10, that would be a fantastic weekend because the depth and quality in this championship is so high.

“If we could do that, it would be absolutely awesome.”

Mid-Ohio is one of the biggest races for the team this year. First, it’s the home track for Meyer Shank Racing. Second, it’s where Harvey earned his first two of six career Indy Lights victories in a back-to-back race weekend there in 2014.

“Mid-Ohio is an extra special place for us, for sure,” Harvey said. “We really feel this could be a strong race for us. It’s got good memories for all of us.”

While competing in just under one-third of the full 17-race IndyCar season can be challenging, Harvey keeps himself busy.

“It’s been difficult, a tough thing to mentally get your head around,” Harvey said. “You come to the track and honestly, I just want to drive.

“If I’m watching a test day, first practice, the race, qualifying, it doesn’t matter. If someone is going around in a car, I want to be in the car. That’s been tough, honestly.”

Even if he’s not in a race car, Harvey still attends many IndyCar race weekends.

“In terms of trying to keep sharp and busy, I coach a driver in the USF 2000 category, Kaylen Frederick (currently 2nd in the standings),” Harvey said. “That’s kept me at the track and kept me in all the debriefs with the team and things like that, (race in) simulators when the opportunity comes up, and I’m in the process of buying a go-kart, as well.

“I’m just trying to stay sharp as much as we can.”

After this weekend, Harvey has two more IndyCar races left on this year’s schedule: the second-to-last race at Portland and the season finale at Sonoma, California.

Going forward, MSR plans on competing in at least another six races in 2019, with hopes of going the full season in 2020.

“I’d love to see us get into double digits for races next year,” Harvey said. “If the opportunity presented itself, of course we’d love to do the full season. We just have to play that by ear and see how it goes.

“But on the whole, I’m very happy with the direction the team is going. If we can end up with a full season by 2020, perhaps that’s a slightly more realistic target. We all know we have something for next year, it’s just a case of trying to go and expand it.”

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NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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