By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Oregon — In the midst of a partial 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season program, Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey surprised many by nearly advancing out of the first round of qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland and will start 13th.
Harvey set a fast lap of 57.9620 seconds (121.983 mph) around the 1.964-mile road course and the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM entry in conjunction with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will have its best start of the season on Sunday.
“I think testing so far has gone pretty well,” said Harvey. “I think we’ve had top-10 pace, I think to be the first one to not transition to the [next] group is a bit disappointing. I think we’ve been there or thereabouts all weekend. Perhaps we didn’t quite have everything we needed, maybe have a little bit of a better balance yesterday, so we need to look at that.”
Harvey and temporary teammate Carlos Munoz will start in the seventh row. Munoz was the first to not advance from the first round in his group.
The team chose to run at Portland International Raceway because no Indy car style race had been held in Portland since 2007. With everybody having little to no setup notebook, that makes Portland an attractive race for the team because of the more level playing field.
“It’s amazing that we haven’t been here in so long,” said Harvey. “The city’s been great. There’s a lot of positive vibes around this place. It’s an absolutely awesome track to drive and I know I’ve enjoyed it and I know Carlos and James [Hinchcliffe] have as well. (It’s) just disappointing there in the end that we didn’t quite have enough, but yeah, I think perhaps it was a bit of a more level playing field. I think we’re going to look to have some momentum to finish the season strong in Sonoma.”
Team co-owner Michael Shank agreed with Harvey’s sentiments, but knows how hard the road is despite the being on more equal ground.
“We all got to test on Thursday, but you know what, these guys are so good,” said Shank. “All the drivers are so good, (they) push so hard, it’s only a slight advantage at the end of the day. Like next year, the new events that are going to come out, that’s great for us so there is a bit of level [playing field] in there but at the end of the day you’ve got to be good. I mean, everyone’s driving like there’s a gun to their head.”
Shank is looking at expanding the amount of races that the team does next year from six to 10 and because his sports car team is so strong right now in IMSA, it allows him to focus more on his IndyCar effort and the result is measured growth.
“This is all I do for a living so it has to make sense at the end of the day,” said Shank. “We don’t have to be desperate, we can plan our progression into IndyCar.”