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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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Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”