Jack Harvey on racing in the Indy 500: “There are so many emotions that you go through”

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Jack Harvey (GBR), Meyer Shank Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Circuit of the Americas
Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher / Courtesy of IndyCar

Since the beginning of last year’s NTT IndyCar Series championship, Meyer Shank Racing has been competing on a part-time basis. Driving the team’s #60 Honda has been British racing driver Jack Harvey.

Originally from Lincolnshire, England, Harvey would graduate to single-seater racing in 2009 and would move up the European racing ladder during the following years. Racing the likes of Carlos Sainz Jr.Daniil Kvyat, Kevin MagnussenRobin Frijns and others, Harvey would take second-place in the 2010 Formula BMW Europe championship before going on to win the 2012 British Formula 3 championship. He would make it as high up as the GP3 Series, taking fifth place in 2013 after scoring wins at Silverstone and Monza.

For 2014, Harvey and his backers, the Racing Steps Foundation, decided that they wanted to switch things up. Harvey would make the move across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in Indy Lights, the feeder series to IndyCar, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Jack would compete in two seasons of Indy Lights, finishing as the runner-up in the championship on both occasions, being beaten by Gabby Chaves in 2014 and by Spencer Pigot in 2015. Arguably the biggest race win of his career came during the 2015 season when he won the Freedom 100 race at Indianapolis.

In 2017, Harvey would make his IndyCar debut, competing in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 in the #50 Honda, fielded by Andretti Autosport in conjunction with Michael Shank Racing. Jack would sadly fail to finish after an accident mid-race, but he would find himself back behind the wheel of an IndyCar later in the season, acting as a substitute driver for the final two races with his former employers, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

For 2018, Michael Shank Racing – soon renamed Meyer Shank Racing – announced that they would be moving up to IndyCar in a part-time collaborative entry with Schmidt Peterson. Harvey was signed to drive the car for six races, taking a best finish of twelfth place at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. His standout performance, however, came at the Indy 500, where he was in contention for the victory on an alternate fuel strategy until a late pit-stop inside the final ten laps.

For this season, Meyer Shank Racing announced that they would be expanding their schedule with Jack Harvey in IndyCar to ten races, including a straight run of the first six races from the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May.

With four races of the season completed as of now, Harvey sits in fourteenth place in the standings. He started off the year by taking his and Meyer Shank Racing’s best qualifying and race results at St. Petersburg. He would qualify in seventh place and go on to finish the race in tenth place. He would take tenth again at the next race at the Circuit of the Americas, but the result was more impressive considering that he had started the race down in twenty-third.

The next two races at Barber Motorsports Park and Long Beach would not go as smoothly for Jack. A mid-race drive-through penalty would relegate him to thirteenth-place in Alabama, whilst a lap one pile-up at Long Beach would see Harvey finish the race three laps down in twenty-second place after repairs.

After the disappointment of the last two races, Harvey heads into the all-important month of May hoping to be back inside the top ten at the next race on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit on May 11. After that, he and the Meyer Shank Racing team will be focusing on the biggest race of the season, the Indianapolis 500, at the end of the month.

Jack was gracious enough to take time out of his preparations for Indianapolis to answer a few questions for The Checkered Flag‘s Jordan Groves. Harvey would answer questions regarding his season so far, the highlights of his career, his hopes for the future and, additionally, whether he would trade an IndyCar race victory to win a Star Wars Podrace…

Jack Harvey (GBR), Meyer Shank Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, St. Petersburg

Credit: Karl Zemlin / Courtesy of IndyCar

Credit: Karl Zemlin / Courtesy of IndyCar

You started off the season brilliantly with two top ten finishes, the first for yourself and Meyer Shank Racing in IndyCar. How important was it for you and the team to start the season in such a strong way?

It was definitely a good start to the season and I think it was important for us to do that just to show that with a good off-season and expanded program, we hit the ground running and got some good results.

You’re set to take part in six further races for the rest of the season. What are your targets for the remaining races?

The target for the rest of the season is to just carry on what we have been doing. We are trying to qualify in the top twelve and finish in the top ten. This year it’s a much more realistic goal for us and what we are aiming for the rest of the season.

Obviously, the Indy 500 is the biggest race of the season and you will be taking part. You were in the mix for the win at the end of last year’s race until you had to pit for fuel. Talk us through your emotions from the final restart up until the finish.

There are so many emotions that you go through when it comes to the Indy 500, it’s difficult to put into words. It’s one of the biggest races in the world and certainly one of the biggest races that I’ve been a part of. And to be mixing it up at the front right at the end there was everything that I have worked towards since I was nine years old.

Obviously, we were totally gutted that we had to stop and refuel again but it was the Indy 500 and we were running on a high risk, high reward strategy. If it had panned out it would have been a life changer. We left May saying that we have a good shot at this and we will come back stronger next time.

Aside from the Indy 500, is there a particular race on the calendar that you look forward to?

The whole month of May is what we all look forward to for obvious reasons. I think honestly outside of that I always enjoy Long Beach and I’m excited to get to Laguna Seca this season. I was excited to get to go to COTA, one of the premier tracks in North America. It’s not on our [part-time] schedule this year, but I love going to the Grand Prix of Toronto; that’s probably one of my favourites outside of May.

We’ve seen an increase in interest in the NTT IndyCar Series back here in the United Kingdom. How special is it for you that your home fans get to watch you race on Television and how much would you like to see IndyCar come to the UK?

I would love to see IndyCar race in the UK. There are such a great group of dedicated fans. I would hope (and I’m extremely biased) that it [a British race] would be really well received.

Should we ever do a race there, and I know there has been some talk about keeping the core group of North American fans, I just think it would be an expansion of that. I don’t think it would hurt the series at all. You could still do fifteen or sixteen races in North America and then two or three somewhere else in the world. And obviously, I would love for one of those places to be in the UK.

Jack Harvey (GBR), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 2015 Indy Lights, Freedom 100, Indianapolis

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Both in Europe and now in IndyCar, you have raced alongside some of the very best drivers in this era of motorsport. Of all the drivers you have raced against, who was your toughest rival and who do you respect the most?

It’s difficult to say, and I have raced with some fantastic drivers. I would say that the best teammate that I have had so far would be Robert Wickens. He is so smart with the car and is so fast and really has a good understanding of what it’s going to take for him to extract more from the car. It was great to work alongside him for the six races we did last year.

A little bit further back when I was in the UK, one of the guys who I respected the most when I was on my way up the ladder was Felipe Nasr. He’s been a friend of mine and he’s been a guy who just seemed very complete and had the whole package really. I was teammates with him in 2011 and raced with him in 2009 as well.

What has been the highlight of your racing career so far?

There are a few things that really stand out. Being a European Junior karting champion was a big one. Being British Formula 3 champion was another one that stands out. Obviously winning the Freedom 100 [pictured above] was a big one for me.

If anyone knows me, they know how hard we’ve worked to get back to competing in IndyCar and that in itself feels like an achievement. It’s hard to say what was the biggest achievement but those are my career highlights for sure.

Looking back to the future, Meyer Shank Racing increased their schedule up to ten races for this season. What are the chances that we could see the team and yourself expand to a full-time entry for 2020?

I think the goal looking ahead to the future I’d like to try and have a full-time drive. That’s the goal that we are trying to get to next year and hopefully the following years to come. Obviously what comes with that is renewed goals. I don’t race in IndyCar just to be one of the drivers competing in the series, I come to try and win as often as we can.

We want to be a force to be reckoned with and over a period of time, it’s our goal to win the Indy 500 and be a series champion.

Finally, you describe yourself on Twitter as a ‘Star Wars Geek’. With the recent release of the Episode 9 trailer, it would be remiss of me as a fellow fan to not ask you at least one Star Wars Question. As such, if you could emulate Anakin Skywalker by winning a Podrace, or take your first IndyCar win, which would you choose?

That’s a tough one. I’d love to have any IndyCar win. It’s what I’ve spent my whole life working towards and it would be so incredible and I’d have a lot of people to thank.

Right now I’m just excited to watch Episode 9 and I thought the trailer looked great. I thought it was just cool to have some form of racing in at least one of the movies. If I had to choose I’d for sure choose an IndyCar win but if they ever make one of those podracers I’d love to have a go at it!

The fifth round of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, will take place on Saturday, May 11. Meyer Shank Racing and Harvey will be in action in the Grand Prix and will then switch focus to the all-important Indianapolis 500which will take place at the end of the month on Sunday, May 26.

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