British racing driver Jack Harvey has described his weekend at the 2019 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as “really successful” after earning himself and his team, Meyer Shank Racing, a top ten finish in the NTT IndyCar Series for the first time. Harvey started the race on Sunday in seventh place and went on to finish in tenth.
Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing entered the opening race weekend of 2019 hoping for a strong start to their second year competing on a part-time schedule in IndyCar. With an increased schedule of ten races for 2019, Harvey was hoping to reward Meyer Shank Racing for their confidence in him with a solid finish at St. Pete.
Harvey was perhaps one of the major surprises of qualifying. Jack managed to advance into the second round of qualifying on Saturday and ended up just one position off of making it into the final round. Ultimately, Harvey would secure seventh place on the grid following a penalty for Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta, with Harvey’s lap-time of 1:00.9531 just half a second slower than the eventual pole position time set by Team Penske‘s Will Power.
After qualifying, Harvey admitted that his Meyer Shank Racing crew had made a number of setup changes to his #60 Honda prior to the session, meaning that he was not entirely sure of how fast he would be.
“We made some changes before the session, so it was a bit of stepping into the unknown for qualifying honestly,” said Harvey on Saturday, “I didn’t know what we were going to have. But the MSR guys stuck with it, and it was great to have that pace in qualifying. The AutoNation Shasta is set up here at the track, and we’ve got a lot of people here from AutoNation so it is great to show this kind of potential with our pink car. Now I’m just looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Harvey’s seventh place in qualifying earned him high plaudits from team co-owner Mike Shank, who said that the team’s first advancement out of the opening round of qualifying was “something solid to build on” heading into the race on Sunday and the rest of the season.
“Jack drove his butt off,” said Shank after qualifying. “We had kind of a hard day and a half coming into this session, but we found some things with the car and that helped us turn it around for qualifying. This is the first qualifying transfer for this (MSR IndyCar) program, so I’m pleased with that.
“We just want to have something solid to build on, and this starts that process for us. I’m proud of everyone on the team for getting this done. Jack put in a great effort over the offseason and we’ve changed some things with the team to keep improving as well and so far, so good.”
Jack got off to a clean start at the drop of the green flag on Sunday. After the opening stages, Harvey found himself up in sixth place and closing in on the top five. The pace of the #60 Honda looked just as promising in the race as it did in qualifying.
Harvey would stay out of trouble for the entirety of the 110-lap race distance. Sadly, the British driver would fall outside of the top ten on their second pit-stop on lap forty-eight. A solid drive thereafter saw Harvey work his way back into the tenth spot; where he would ultimately finish when the chequered flag flew.
The result would be the first time that both Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing finished inside the top ten in the NTT IndyCar Series. The result also made up for a disappointing race at St. Pete twelve months prior, where Harvey had been on course for a strong finish until he was forced to retire after suffering a puncture.
“As a whole, it’s been a really successful weekend,” said Harvey after the race. “We had our best finishing position and our best qualifying position. Naturally when you qualify well the hope is that it will transfer into the race. We can’t say it didn’t because we got our best race finish, but we definitely lacked some pace.
“The guys did a great job this weekend, we qualified seventh and finished 10th. We said prior to the season that we wanted to qualify in the top 12 and finish in the top ten, so by our own standards that was a great race.”
It was hard to decide who was happier after the race on Sunday, Harvey or Shank. Mike said post-race that the result was a “solid foundation” for the rest of the season and that tenth place had shown that Meyer Shank Racing had “a really competitive program” this season.
“Jack drove an incredible race,” said Shank. “We came into the weekend with ambitions to get a top ten and he did just that. We had a lot of pace in qualifying but that same pace didn’t quite transfer over into the race.
“We have now built a solid foundation for ourselves for the rest of the season and I think we showed right out of the gates that we have a really competitive program for the 2019 season.”
Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing will be back in action in just under two weeks time for the second round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas. The 2019 IndyCar Classic will take place on Sunday, March 24.