By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana- Jack Harvey’s first go in the Verizon IndyCar Series has gone about like his journey to get there.
The two-time runner up of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2014 and 2015, Harvey’s $75,000 check he received at the Mazda Road to Indy banquet in September 2015 was nowhere near enough to secure him an IndyCar ride.
How was the journey from September 2015 to this year, finally getting a ride in the Indianapolis 500?
“Terrible. It’s an honest answer,” Harvey said.
“You go through highs and lows and the lows seem to outweigh the highs and you try and do as much work as you can and you feel like you’re making progress and suddenly things come together very quickly and that’s the moment you have to try and realize that was what all the hard work was for,” the driver of the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda.
Would he go through it all again? You bet.
“I think honestly in the end would I relive it again to experience all of this? Yeah, for sure, in a heartbeat. You know this is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of and lucky that we’ve got so many great sponsors that wanted to be a part of it with me and yeah, just keep trying to move forward and become a regular fixture of this event.”
Harvey initially was going to drive an Andretti Autosport entry but when two time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso announced he would be driving an Andretti Autosport entry, Michael Shank Racing partnered with Andretti to put the 2015 Freedom 100 winner in a car.
“My deal initially was just with Andretti Autosport and then with Fernando coming over to the team we got Michael Shank Racing to come and be a part of it which I was really excited about,” Harvey said. “I followed Michael in his team ownership career. I know what a great program he runs and all these things so I was just excited for him to join us now and be a part of it,” Harvey added.
The car is owned by Andretti Autosport, but MSR is providing the personnel for the operation.
Harvey’s month hasn’t been seamless so far. A massive steering issue caused him to have the first incident of wall contact during the month. While driving in the warmup lane in Turn 2, the car went straight instead of turning left, leaving Harvey as a passenger on his way to an impact with the wall around 120 mph.
“I know we’ve had some teething issues and whatnot, but I certainly don’t think that was anything on MSR’s side,” Harvey said.
That incident set Harvey back, especially when it came to finishing up his Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program. Getting through phases one and two of ROP was easier, but getting through phase three was more of a challenge.
“I think at least phase one and two was important to get done and then I guess the thing for me yesterday wasn’t an ROP related thing, it was just a speed thing,” said the six-time Indy Lights race winner.
“I knew we weren’t quick and I didn’t feel good in the car and I said to the guys, ‘I don’t know how you expect me to do this because I’m nearly flat and I’m still not fast, so help me.’ So then we changed the car and at the end of the day the speed was actually pretty good if you look at how everybody was doing at that exact time of the day.”
A few small changes to Harvey’s car made all the difference and the Andretti team used the services of Marco Andretti to try to make sure that the car was capable of going faster. Harvey found the speed to pass ROP and eventually turned a fastest lap of 218.943 mph.
“We were legitimately pretty quick so yeah, now with the changes they made and tightening some bits that were a little loose,” said Harvey. “I certainly felt a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident and it got to the stage where I was like ‘Okay, what do we need to do?’
“And it’s like ‘we need to trim’ and before that was a daunting prospect where by the end of they that’s how we were going to go faster so I think in the end we progressed very well and just making sure that we start today where we finished yesterday.
“I think where we finished yesterday, we can really have a good platform to build off and start to contribute either similar feedback or different feedback or things like that. So I mean, honestly we’ve lost in my opinion probably a day’s worth of running just with numerous stuff that’s gone wrong and whatnot, but we’ve got to make up for it now and contribute to the team, try to learn as much as I can and go from there.”