Harvey has breakout race in IndyCar Grand Prix

0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Young Jack Harvey had to convince NTT IndyCar Series team owner Michael Shank to add the IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the team’s 10-race limited schedule.

Shank was originally not convinced that was a good idea.

The team owner wanted to stick to a plan that he used last year by skipping the road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so the team could have a well-tuned, thoroughly prepared car for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. That way, the team could spend the first weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway massaging the car rather than spending all day Monday, dramatically changing the car’s setup from road course configuration to oval.

Harvey was determined to convince Shank the IndyCar Grand Prix was a good idea.

“We chatted about it, and then we chatted about it again, and I could tell there was something that wasn’t selling very well,” Harvey told NBC Sports.com on Saturday. “I just said to him, ‘Trust me. I’m good at this track.’ It’s a track we come to and I believe I have enough talent to deliver the result that we have.

“It was trust on his part. I wasn’t trying to BS him. I was being honest with him, and I believed it. The result today showed it.”

Harvey lived up to his promise and finished third in Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, the highest finish of his NTT IndyCar Series career.

“Hopefully, next time when I say, ‘Hey, I can do that,’ he will know it then,” Harvey said. “Michael is as good a team boss as you can ever have.”

Shank stood in the rain in Victory Lane watching his driver celebrate on the podium. He is glad he listened to his driver and let him talk him into adding the race to this year’s expanded schedule.

“Jack told me, ‘I’m good there. Let me do this race,’” Shank told NBCSports.com. “I said, ‘Oh, man, we need to get ready for the Indianapolis 500.’ He said, ‘Let’s do the race.’

“Well, he is good here.”

The driver from Bassingham, England had won an Indy Lights race from the pole during the IndyCar GP weekend in 2015. He also won on the oval in the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race in 2015.

“I’m really pleased, super proud of him,” Shank said. “The way he integrated with the crew chief, the engineers and Honda this weekend was literally perfect.

“He had never driven in the rain today. We literally dropped him in the fire and said, ‘Don’t mess this up.’ There’s a lot of joy and a lot of happiness right now.

“This is a step in the right direction. We are way ahead of schedule.

“Jack deserves a chance at this. He has worked his ass off; he is great with people, and he deserves this. If this race had been in the dry, we are second and could have maybe had more.”

INDYCAR PhotoHarvey showed his promise and potential in Friday’s qualifications when he finished third. He was impressive in the race as weather played a major factor in track conditions.

In many ways, Harvey never turned a wheel wrong all weekend.

“To qualify third, to finish third I think was a result that if you’d have offered it to us before the weekend started, we would have taken it, and hopefully this is just that springboard for us, for first off of May,” Harvey said. “Hopefully it gives us some good momentum throughout the rest of this month, but also looking forward to the future, to the end of 2019 and looking forward to 2020.”

When Simon Pagenaud was charging to the front in the closing laps, a key moment in that winning drive came when he passed Harvey in Turn 1.

“There was a few laps where I thought we could hold him off, and then you talk about a bright car,” Harvey said. “Into Turn 1, I saw this ‘Yellow Dart’ suddenly just like arrive straight at the apex and thought, ‘Man, that was pretty brave,’ and thank God his car is so bright.’

“Clearly Simon had a very quick car today. We were racing together in the dry. We were racing together in the wet. He had a bit more pace than we did at the end there, and I thought his move was pretty good on Scott Dixon, too. I was a little bit behind it, but around the outside in Turn 8 and then on the inside through 9, it was a pretty stout day, and I think I heard Scott mention, you see how much it means to win just a race, because it’s so difficult all the time.

“I think we’ve been on the edge of a good result like this for a while, but actually trying to gel those pieces, put it all together have been tricky, so that’s why I think you have to enjoy every podium, every win that comes, especially in this place because I feel like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a racing driver’s ‘Neverland.’ It’s where we come to try and not get old.

“Did I think we could hold him off? Yeah, I certainly hoped we could, but in the end, we couldn’t quite.”

At the checkered flag, it was Pagenaud defeating Dixon by 2.0469 seconds with Harvey’s Honda in third.

The podium celebration is one that Harvey will always remember.

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski“To share the podium with both of those guys I think is pretty special,” Harvey said. “Our first podium in IndyCar today, and hopefully it’s the first of a few, and we’re just going to keep using it to keep learning, get more experience, and hopefully it won’t be as much of a shock when we get in here again.”

Dixon thought it was important to see a veteran driver return to victory as Pagenaud won for the first time since Sonoma 2017. He also believed it was important to see a new driver and potential star of the future in Harvey have a breakout race.

“I think it’s very important for the future of the sport,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “Jack has done a fantastic job, I think, bringing different sponsors to the series, as well, and even his owner with Shank. He’s a great person, very successful in many other forms of racing, and it’s good to see them come over here.

“But it shows you the ability of any team with the parts and pieces that everybody has, you can come here and run strong, and if you’ve got a good driver, you can make it happen. I think that’s why we’re seeing such a big influx from Europe and great drivers that have come through the ranks here in America, too.

“It’s definitely a bright future.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
0 Comments

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.