Photo: Riley W. Thompson/ASP, Inc.

Last Ditch Effort Gives Harvey Final Spot in Indy 500 as Rahal Bumped Out

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Never give up, never surrender.

As the clock wound down in Sunday’s hour-long Last Row Shootout for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, Jack Harvey and his No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan team were in desperation mode, having made two previous runs that weren’t fast enough to put them in the 33-car field.

It had been a week of struggle for not only his team, but the entire RLL Racing organization, with three of their four cars vying for a spot in the race. When the day was over, one driver would be going home and it all came down to Harvey or his teammate Graham Rahal to see who would survive and advance.

With less than three minutes remaining, Rahal held the bubble and Harvey was still on the outside looking in.

After a few quick adjustments by his team, Harvey’s Indy 500 future would all come down to one final run. Either he would be fast enough to bump his way in and send his teammate packing or he’d come up short yet again.

After four laps of all-out driving, the third attempt was the charm for the 30-year-old native of England, as he laid down an average speed of 229.166 mph to narrowly eclipse Rahal’s 229.159 average and bump his teammate from the field.

Climbing from his car after clinching his place in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Harvey was at a loss for words over the bittersweet moment, knowing he’ll race next Sunday, but his teammate and close confidant Rahal will have to watch from the sidelines.

“We had done two attempts. Neither of them seemed to be enough to get it done, and actually on the final one, I said to the guys, do you even think we can do this,” Harvey said of his mindset going into the final run. “The car is hot, engine is hot, and they said, yeah, you’ve got to try; it’s the Indy 500. In that moment just tried to forget about everything else for a moment.

“It’s not a good feeling, to be honest with you. It’s not a moment necessarily for celebration. As a team we’re going to be starting 30th, 31st and 33rd, and I hated it today, felt like we were in the Hunger Games with our own team.

“But of the four people driving, three of them are in. I know it’s not great odds and it’s not a great feeling. To be honest, it’s unbelievable relief. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s actually quite hard to process it.

“There’s a lot of emotions. Like massively grateful to be in the race, massively sad that we bumped out a teammate because I know what that means for the entire team.”

Meanwhile, as Harvey was making his final run, it was a helpless feeling for Rahal, who could do nothing but watch from the cockpit of his Honda hoping his time would be enough to fend off Harvey with no time left on the clock.

When Harvey crossed the line to snag the final starting spot, Rahal was nearly brought to tears knowing for the first time in his career, he won’t be racing at Indianapolis. It’s a feeling he now shares with his father and team co-owner Bobby Rahal, who missed out on a start in the Indy 500 in 1993 – 30 years ago this year.

Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

“That’s the difficult part. You can’t do anything. You can’t run again. You’re kind of stuck there,” Rahal said. “As I said to these guys, you’ve just got to be positive. Everybody puts a lot into this and we just came up short.

“With the heat soak and stuff, I’m really surprised. This place, it doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t just happen. And we weren’t good enough. We were the slowest of our cars just on pure pace all week. Unfortunately, that happens. You’ve got to be positive; you’ve got to be humble and gracious in victory and defeat. There’s [always] next year.

Before walking away to console with his family, Rahal tearfully summed up the entire experience leading up to the final moments of qualifying that ultimately sealed his fate.

“I knew from the start we were in trouble.”

The third RLL Racing entry, Christian Lundgaard, was the quickest of the Last Row Shootout to join Harvey in next Sunday’s race, along with rookie Sting Ray Robb. The two drivers will roll off in 31st and 32nd.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.