Full-time status a long time coming for Shank, Harvey

Chris Jones / IndyCar

There’s an old adage that slow and steady wins the race.

Like in the old fable of the tortoise and the hare, sometimes the most successful people in life are those who work toward achieving their goals at a slower, more attainable pace.

After three years of competing in the NTT IndyCar Series on a part-time basis, Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Michael Shank and driver Jack Harvey now hope that their slow, but steady ascent into a full-time competition will bring wins in their future races. 

After forming a technical alliance with Andretti Technologies to run their first Indianapolis 500 in 2017, Meyer Shank Racing ran six races in 2018 and 10 races this past season in a technical alliance with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (now Arrow McLaren AP). 

Next year, the duo will renew their alliance with Andretti as they compete in their first full-time season. And while MSR’s path to full-time status has been a lengthy one, Shank is a firm believer that the team made the right decision of slowly wading its way into the IndyCar pool instead of diving head first into the deep end. 

“I think a lot of people in racing come in and blow their dough, and then they’re gone,” Shank told NBC Sports. “[They] create a lot of ill will and no-good for anybody.

“When we came to IndyCar, we went to the series and said ‘here’s our plan, and this is what we’re going to do,’ and they just kind of looked at us like ‘okay. That’s what everyone tells us,’ but we actually did it, and I think, in baseball terms, we’re probably batting .700 relative to hitting all of our goals. I think we’ve done a pretty damn good job doing what we need to do, and I couldn’t be much more happier.”

Michael Shank. Photo: James Black/IndyCar.

A former racer himself, Shank made his lone IndyCar start in the 1997 Las Vegas 500K. After hanging up the helmet, Shank shifted his focus to team ownership, with Michael Shank Racing competing in the Champ Car Atlantic Series and eventually the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series (now part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship).

Eventually, Shank made the decision to attempt to return to IndyCar racing as a car owner, and he bought a Dallara chassis in 2012 with the intention of running Indy.

However, Shank failed to secure a competitive engine, and thus the team never entered the hallowed grounds of ‘The Brickyard’.

“Back in 2012, I didn’t have the relationship that I have with Honda today,” Shank said. “In fact, I was a Ford team at the time in IMSA, and they have no presence here in IndyCar.

“It’s extremely hard to get into.”

Having lost money in his first attempt to run Indy, Shank was initially hesitant to return. However, changes in IndyCar management persuaded him to give the series another shot.

The only difference between 2012 and 2018 is Jay Frye,” Shank said. “Jay Frye put his hand out and put his arm around me and said ‘let’s make sure we get this done. What’s your plan, and how can we help?’

“It was not just me, though. There’s other teams like us that came in at the same time. Harding came in, Carlin came in, Juncos – we’re all part of that class that came in.

“All of us came from different backgrounds. I feel we’re doing as good of a job as any of those other teams.”

Since its first race in 2017, MSR’s path towards full-time status has been very carefully planned and orchestrated.

Though no driver or team owner wants to watch races from the couch, Shank said he believes that the path MSR took was the best one.

“What hurts us worse is to come in and be gone because we’re financially ruined,” Shank said. “That hurts the most.

“We had X amount of money, and we asked ‘how can we spend this amount of money? What’s the best, most efficient way to get results for our partners?’ They need results and so do we.

“We set out a very specific plan starting in ‘18, and we stuck to it by the letter. Everything we’ve done is by plan.”

Part of what has made MSR’s plan so successful is the fact that every year the team created a set of goals that they felt could realistically be achieved.

“This year’s goals were to finish in the top 10 as much as possible and transfer at least once in qualifying,” Shank said. “We did a good job of achieving that a lot of the time.

“Next year, as we roll into a full season, we want to be in the top 10 in the points from the get-go, and we want to have three to five podiums and three to five top fives, and the rest of them in the top 10. If we do that, we’re going to finish fifth or sixth in the championship, and that would be exactly a perfect goal.

“There’s going to be days were we finish 14th, though, and we get that. But we’ll just be trying to keep it even-keeled and not lose sight of that.”

So what does the team’s driver think of these goals?

“Our goals, our desires, between me, Michael, and everybody at MSR are totally in line with what we want to achieve in the time frame that we want to achieve them by,” Harvey said.  “I think this team is being built for longevity. That’s how I see it.

“I was happy with the plan and obviously wanted to stick around and be a part of it as long as I can.”

Like Shank, Harvey’s road to full-time status has been a long one.

Jack Harvey won the Freedom 100 in 2015. Photo: Chris Owens/IndyCar.

After making his way up Europe’s ladder series, Harvey moved to the U.S. in 2014 to race for Schmidt Peterson in Indy Lights. Between 2014 and 2015, Harvey won six races in Lights, including the 2015 Freedom 100 at Indianapolis.

Harvey went rideless in 2016 before driving for MSR in its maiden Indy 500 the following year. Since then, Harvey’s scored four top 10’s in 19 IndyCar races, with best starting and finishing position of third, both of which came in this year’s IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

With MSR continuing to improve each season, Harvey he has plenty of trust and faith in Shank, and sponsors SiruisXM and AutoNation, among others.

“We just have so many good relationships that I still felt this is the team,” Harvey said. “This year we’ve shown what we can do, but I feel like we still got some gas left in the tank to be able to improve next year.

“We all have this thing called pride and we want to get the best results we can. I think between us, we all understand each other. There’s some difficult conversations, but we don’t shy away from them.

“We appreciate all of our sponsors. I think we look after them really well at the track and away from the track. We go racing with people we enjoy going racing with, who we all believe in. It’s very much a big team effort. I think the way we’ve expanded really shows that.”

Now with a full slate in 2020, both Harvey and Shank are hopeful to make the most of their first full-time season. Should the duo continue to impress next year, they could very well become one of the best feel-good stories the series has seen in a long time.

“The story of how we got from 2017 to now is an awesome story,” Shank said. “It could be a little book, actually.

“Let this effort win a big race at some point, it’ll be a true textbook example of how people can do whatever they want to do. You just have to be creative and treat people well.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter 


Roger Penske vows new downtown Detroit GP will be bigger than the Super Bowl for city


DETROIT – He helped spearhead bringing the town a Super Bowl 17 years ago, but Roger Penske believes the reimagined Chevrolet Detroit GP is his greatest gift to the Motor City.

“It’s bigger than the Super Bowl from an impact within the city,” Penske told NBC Sports. “Maybe not with the sponsors and TV, but for the city of Detroit, it’s bigger than the Super Bowl.

“We’ve got to give back individually and collectively, and I think we as a company in Michigan and in Detroit, it’s something we know how to do. It shows we’re committed. Someone needs to take that flag and run it down through town. And that’s what we’re trying to do as a company. We’re trying to give back to the city.”

After 30 years of being run on Belle Isle, the race course has been moved to a new nine-turn, 1.7-mile downtown layout that will be the centerpiece of an event weekend that is designed to promote a festival and community atmosphere.

There will be concerts in the adjacent Hart Plaza. Local businesses from Detroit’s seven districts have been invited to hawk their wares to new clientele. Boys and Girls Clubs from the city have designed murals that will line the track’s walls with images of diversity, inclusion and what Detroit means through the eyes of youth.

And in the biggest show of altruism, more than half the circuit will be open for free admission. The track is building 4-foot viewing platforms that can hold 150 people for watching the long Jefferson Avenue straightaway and other sections of the track.

Detroit GP chairman Bud Denker, a longtime key lieutenant across Penske’s various companies, has overseen more than $20 million invested in infrastructure.

The race is essentially Penske’s love letter to the city where he made much of his fame as one of Detroit’s most famous automotive icons, both as a captain of industry with a global dealership network and as a racing magnate (who just won his record 19th Indy 500 with Josef Newgarden breaking through for his first victory on the Brickyard oval).

During six decades in racing, Penske, 86, also has run many racetracks (most notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also speedways in Michigan, California and Pennsylvania), and much of that expertise has been applied in Detroit.

“And then the ability for us to reach out to our sponsor base, and then the business community, which Bud is tied in with the key executives in the city of Detroit, bringing them all together,” Penske said. “It makes a big difference.

“The Super Bowl is really about the people that fly in for the Super Bowl. It’s a big corporate event, and the tickets are expensive. And the TV is obviously the best in the world. What we’ve done is taken that same playbook but made it important to everyone in Detroit. Anyone that wants to can come to the race for free, can stand on a platform or they can buy a ticket and sit in the grandstands or be in a suite. It’s really multiple choice, but it is giving it to the city of Detroit. I think it’s important when you think of these big cities across the country today that are having a lot of these issues.”

Denker said the Detroit Grand Prix is hoping for “an amazingly attended event” but is unsure of crowd estimates with much of the track offering free viewing. The race easily could handle a crowd of at least 50,000 daily (which is what the Movement Music Festival draws in Hart Plaza) and probably tens of thousands more in a sprawling track footprint along the city’s riverwalk.

Penske is hoping for a larger crowd than Belle Isle, which was limited to about 30,000 fans daily because of off-site parking and restricted fan access at a track that was located in a public park.

The downtown course will have some unique features, including a “split” pit lane on an all-new concrete (part of $15 million spent on resurfaced roads, new barriers and catchfencing … as well as 252 manhole covers that were welded down).

A $5 million, 80,000-square-foot hospitality chalet will be located adjacent to the paddock and pit area. The two-story structure, which was imported from the 16th hole of the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, will offer 70 chalets (up from 23 suites at Belle Isle last year). It was built by InProduction, the same company that installed the popular HyVee-branded grandstands and suites at Iowa Speedway last year.

Penske said the state, city, county and General Motors each owned parts of the track, and their cooperation was needed to move streetlights and in changing apexes of corners. Denker has spent the past 18 months meeting with city council members who represent Detroit’s seven districts, along with Mayor Mike Duggan. Penske said the local support could include an appearance by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer.

Denker and Detroit GP  president Michael Montri were inspired to move the Detroit course downtown after attending the inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We saw what an impact it made on that city in August of 2021 and we came back from there and said boy could it ever work to bring it downtown in Detroit again,” Denker said. “We’ve really involved the whole community of Detroit, and the idea of bringing our city together is what the mayor and city council and our governor are so excited about. The dream we have is now coming to fruition.

“When you see the infrastructure downtown and the bridges over the roads we’ve built and the graphics, and everything is centered around the Renaissance Center as your backdrop, it’s just amazing.”