By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
At a press conference at the 2017 Performance Racing Industry Show, Michael Shank Racing announced a multi-year partnership with Schmidt/Peterson Motorsports for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Without a budget for a full season, Harvey will be racing six races in the 2018 season including the streets of St. Petersburg, the streets of Long Beach and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 plus three other races with more to be added if funding can be found.
“This is a long term deal for three years so [Shank] can grow organically in IndyCar and after that go full time if he can and we can have a little more resources on the development side to help him and help us so it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Schmidt/Peterson Motorsports owner Sam Schmidt.
This partnership continues a pair of partnerships that Harvey has had. Harvey had previously partnered with Sam Schmidt’s team in Indy Lights in 2014 and 2015, finishing second in the championship in both seasons. Harvey then ran the final two races of the 2017 IndyCar season with Schmidt/Peterson Motorsports.
Harvey raced in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 in a partnership with Michael Shank and Michael Andretti’s organizations. That race came to an end as Harvey spun to avoid a crashing Conor Daly and damage from the incident sidelined him.
For Schmidt, there was one thing that brought the program together.
“Integrity and parallel thoughts on everything,” said Schmidt. “I mean, [Shank]’s worked hard to get where he is without a big name and I think we’ve worked really hard to get where we’re at and IndyCar is so, so bloody competitive. It’s basically a spec chassis, spec tire, engine competition deal so there’s not a lot to be gained with money, it’s all about people working hard and working on the details on figuring it out and this reminds me a lot of the alignment we had in 2011 with Bryan Herta and we won the 500.”
In Shank’s case, this announcement finally gives the sports car stalwart an open wheel racing presence that has been sought after since 2012 but there were some ingredients that made this opportunity work.
“It’s just the right people,” said Shank. “It’s the right people and sponsors and group, it’s the right driver, it’s the right technical alliance [and] my schedule allows it with the sports car side so we can kind of meld both of them.
“It’s just the right moment in time, we’ve tried to force it to happen before and it didn’t work, this time we didn’t have to force it, I just organically let it keep working, it was a lot of work, a lot of hurdles but nothing made me think that we shouldn’t be doing this.”
Partnering with Jack Harvey added a chance to give a driver that has been hungry a chance to succeed.
“Everybody deserves an opportunity that has paid the price that both of us have had,” said Shank. “[We] tried kept trying, didn’t give up, we all deserve a shot. If it doesn’t work out at the end of the day then that was that but he’s in that same boat. He deserves a real shot and we’re going to give that to him so let’s see what that looks like.
“We’ll take chances when we need to and we’ll be conservative when we need to because we don’t have an unlimited budget but we do have a budget.”
Harvey has much appreciation for what has taken place because of the struggles he has gone through.
“I know what it’s like to have nothing,” said Harvey. “I went from 2002 all the way through 2015 and I had a full time drive whether it was in go karting or open wheel racing. I then hit 2016 and I’ve got nothing.
“It’s the reality, I had no sponsorship, I had no drive, I had no team, I had nothing. We have worked hard every single day since then to put this together and would I change my path to this point,? Absolutely not, because now my appreciation level, my thankfulness, my gratitude to people is through the roof because I can’t do this alone. My management company have already gone back to work because they have meetings about how do we do more. I am extremely lucky with everybody I have around me, not just on track, also off track.
“I don’t want to say there’s not been tough times from 2016 until now, there’s been days where I’ve really wondered if it was all worth it and honestly days like today make me even feel bad for even having those thoughts even one percent.”