Reverse Youth Movement at MSR First Silly Season Volley

Don’t tell me you saw this coming. Buoyed by Helio Castroneves’ fourth win in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500in his second car, Mike Shank has decided to bump up his usual schedule to becoming a full time two car entry. Meyer Shank Racing announced that 47 year old Castroneves will drive the number 06 car full time next year. If the team had stuck to the plan as they did with Jack Harvey, Castroneves, who is running six races this season, would have entered 10 races next year.

In this season where the younger drivers have had a lot of success, Shank decided to go the other way. It is a bold move, and I am curious to see how it plays out.

A bit of irony in the second part of the announcement is that Jack Harvey will race elsewhere in 2022. Harvey has been with Meyer Shank Racing the Indycar program began. No one knows where harvey will end up next season. My guess is he will replace Ryan Hunter-Reay in the 28 car at Andretti Autosport. The 2021 season for Harvey has been marked by good qualifying and not so great results, partly due to team strategy.

Here is the story from Indycar:

Helio Castroneves will return for a full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in 2022 with Meyer Shank Racing (MSR), driving the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda.

Castroneves’ attempt to become the first five-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner will be a highlight of the season for MSR, and the Ohio-based team is using the “Drive for Five” theme in 2022.

Brazilian Castroneves, 46, joined A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the exclusive club of four-time “500” winners with his emotional victory for Meyer Shank – the team’s first win in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES – on May 30. He also is racing this season for MSR at Nashville, Tennessee (Aug. 8), the Indianapolis road course (Aug. 15) and in the season-closing West Coast swing at Portland, Oregon (Sept. 12), Monterey, California (Sept. 19) and Long Beach, California (Sept. 26).

“I am thrilled to get the chance to go for a fifth Indianapolis 500 win and so excited to fight for the INDYCAR championship again with a full season of races next year with Meyer Shank Racing,” Castroneves said. “Mike (Shank) and Jim (Meyer) have developed some incredible sponsorships with AutoNation and SiriusXM, and having that support is critical. I have been missing racing in INDYCAR full time so much! So, I cannot wait to get a head start on next year with some strong races to finish this season.”

With the full-time addition of Castroneves, MSR plans to field two full-time entries in 2022. The No. 60 AutoNation/ SiriusXM Honda, which has been driven by Jack Harvey for the past few seasons, has been renewed for two years, with a new driver who will be announced soon.

“We wish Jack much success, and we know he will continue to be a driver to watch,” MSR co-owner Mike Shank said. “MSR is excited to have Helio on the 06 car next season, and we’re looking forward to adding a driver, who will turn heads in the 60 car.”

In just 42 INDYCAR SERIES races, MSR has collected an Indianapolis 500 victory, two podium finishes, two-front row starts and 12 top-10 finishes. In addition to the team’s on-track accomplishments, MSR is also in the final stages of building a brand new 43,000 square-foot shop in Pataskala, Ohio.

“There are so many people around us that have given us the opportunity to expand to two full-season entries for next year,” Shank said. “My partner Jim Meyer and I have done this in a way that makes sense for us. I am very excited to have Helio onboard for the 2022 season, and I think there will be a lot of excitement around our second driver when we make that announcement, as well.”

Notes

  • Castroneves career stats:

31 Indycar victories and 50 poles

Second in the points standings four times- 2002, 2008, 2013, 2014

  • The 2022 full time grid might be as high as 27 cars.
  • Dario Franchitti will be the Grand Marshall for the Music City Grand Prix

Harvey Looks for More Success at Mid Ohio

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Jack Harvey returns to the scene of his best weekend of his Road to Indy career, where he swept both races. Mid Ohio is also the home track of his car owner, Michael Shank. No pressure there. Still Harvey is excited to return to Mid Ohio and the Honda indy 200, were he started fifth and finished seventh in race 1 last year.

In talking to the media yesterday, Harvey discussed what mid Ohio means to him and the team, and how his 2021 season is going.

“It’s massive, mate. It’s such a special place for the team, obviously it being Michael’s home race, the track that he grew up at, so everyone at Meyer Shank Racing is obviously very excited. Mid-Ohio was a place that I got my first win in North America back in Indy Lights, and just a track that has flowed pretty well for me the whole time I’ve been there.”

Mid Ohio is known to have rain on race weekends. The rain during qualifying for Race 2 last year cost Harvey several positions on the grid., Harvey doesn’t mind rain at this track.

“Honestly I even like it when it’s raining. We had the wrong setting in the car. We still had our dry pedal map in, so just a bit of an oversight on my side but also maybe on the team’s side, as well. Man, it just flows. It’s a super great track. There’s a nice bit of elevation change there, a lot of the corners kind of link together, so you might have three corners that actually all directly feed into the next one, so your car placement, your precision. I feel like I have gone well on tracks like that, been able to like give a little to try and get a little in a certain part of the corner.”

Harvey summed 2021 for him so far as having a competitive pace, but finding misfortune, especially in the last six races. He told the media:

“… we’ve been quick everywhere. Certainly we have momentum. Just things that together as a team we’re learning. I would say we don’t often repeat mistakes. We have an uncanny ability at the minute to find new ones, which I’m hoping that we kind of stop doing that, but just from a sheer pace perspective, we’ve got that at the minute. But like you said, you look at the people around the championship, and it’s an unusual year because there’s a lot of really great drivers who have been on the receiving end of not necessarily bad luck but just unfortunate events, and like I was talking to Michael this week, we started the season well, we’ve had great pace everywhere, but the last six races for us, I mean, have been pretty not awesome.”

An ambitious strategy call at Road America cost Harvey at least 10 spots in the final results. Harvey related, “Looking back at Road America, our strategy call was aggressive, probably more aggressive than what I would have done if they’d have radioed me and asked, but at the end of the day I think it also shows the desire and aspirations of the team that we’re here to try and get really great results. Honestly I really believe that we’re on the brink of it, we just need them pieces to come together on a smooth weekend, and I think we can do it.”

Jack Harvey at Road America. Photo by James Black, Indycar

As for having Helio Castroneves as a teammate, Harvey enjoys him, and is looking forward to Indycar’s Nashville debut.

“I just like having Helio around, really. He has enthusiasm. He’s an incredibly nice guy. I don’t think there was one person at the Indy 500 who wasn’t happy to see him win. That’s just the kind of guy he is. You know, one of the things that gets a bit of a challenge, for as great as it is having another car there, attention is all getting pulled a little bit away, but Andretti Autosport have five full-time guys if you include us in their stable, so there’s plenty of data to be looking at. But it certainly doesn’t hurt. I just hope that as a team we have to be ready to put people in place to be able to deal and handle with all the extra work that comes along with that car, but I know we’re talking about Mid-Ohio, but if you look just forward to Nashville just for a moment, I think everyone is so incredibly excited for that race. It would be great to have a great weekend this weekend and take that positive energy, momentum into hopefully a great Nashville because August and September are about as busy as what you can be, I think, in an INDYCAR season.”

Jack Harvey is still seeking his first Indycar victory. This weekend at Mid Ohio might be the track where he sees Victory Circle. A win would be huge for him and Michael Shank. While Mid Ohio is still mainly a tack that roots for the Rahals, Mike Shank and crew may give them a new hometown hero to cheer for.

Morning Practice Has Few Takers

Only nine cars took advantage of the morning practice session, and it was rare to see more than one car on track at a time.

Jack Harvey put together four laps quicker than 230 mph. Charlie Kimball was slowest. at 227 mph.

The sky is overcast and temperatures are pleasant right now. If the cloud cover stays conditions will be ideal for qualifying.

Notes

it was nice to see the garage area filled with fans and the frenetic activity of the teams preparing their cars.

IMS needs to establish distinct entry and 4xit lanes for Gasoline Alley. The area gets very congested with people entering and exiting the same space.

Can the PA announcer a dial it back a bit so we just enjoy the sound of the cars? This isn’t radio where dead air is a bad thing. Too much chatter.

I jopeto.0ost an update around 3 pm

Rossi Tops Sebring Test Day

Photo: Indycar, Chris Owens

Alexander Rossi led a strong showing by Andretti Autosport at Sebring on Tuesday with a quick lap of 52.27 seconds. Teammate Colton Herta was second, followed by Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato were next in line.

Photo-Chris Owens Indycar

Harvey, of Meyer Shank Racing had a technical alliance with Andretti last year. I look for a strong year from Harvey. The team has a full year under their belt, and having Helio Castroneves as a teammate for six races should help as well.

Dalton Kellett and A, J, Foyt Racing tested both days and seemed happy with the team’s progress.

GMR Qualifying- The Kids Are Alright

Photo: Indycar, Chris Jones

Will Power won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix with a brilliant final lap in the Fast Six. he nipped Jack Harvey by 0.188  seconds. Old news. This was Power’s fourth pole in this race. He won the other three times he started on pole. The pole was the 58th of Power’s career, and he is just nine shy of tying Mario Andretti for the most career poles. He will creep even closer by year’s end.

What I want to focus this qualifying report on though is the younger drivers in the series. Overall, they had a great day. I will discuss them after a recap of qualifying.

Round 1, Group 1

The youngsters led the way, grabbing the first four spots to advance. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden struggled to squeeze into the final transfer spot.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Max Chilton

Felix Rosenqvist

Conor Daly

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Josef Newgarden

Round 1, Group 2

This session had a more traditional look with Power leading and more drivers expected to advance filling the next round.

Results:

Will Power

Colton Herta

Scott Dixon

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Alexander Rossi

Round of 12

Half of the drivers in the second round have less than three full years of Indycar experience. It looked as if the fast Six would shape up to be another the great Power vs. Herta pole battles we had last season, but another youngster decided to spoil the fun.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Colton Herta

Will Power

Josef Newgarden

Fast Six

Jack Harvey came within a whisker of his first career pole. Power nipped him on the final lap as time ran out. The result was Harvey’s second consecutive GMR Grand Prix Fast Six. In 2019 he started third and finished third.

Results:

Will Power      1:10.177

Jack Harvey    1:10.365

Colton Herta

Graham Rahal

Oliver Askew

Josef Newgarden

The Kids

If you were keeping score, half of each of the last two rounds had drivers with less than three years experience. Oliver Askew in his first road course qualifying led two rounds of qualifying and had the fastest lap of 1:09.878 in the second round.

Conor Daly got a rare second round spot for Ed Carpenter Racing and will start 8th tomorrow.

Colton Herta showed last year that he will be a perennial contender.

Jack Harvey loves this track. if he can transfer his success at IMS to the rest of the series, he will be someone fun to watch.

Max Chilton advancing to the second round was nice to see.

Felix rosenqvist had an off day today, but could be a factor tomorrow.

We are witnessing a very quick generational change. These younger drivers are the sport’s future. The current stars have at most three years left. The series will be in very good hands when they leave. We could see a few more surprises this season. The kids are alright.

 

 

 

Update with Comments: Meyer-Shank, Harvey Set for Full Time Run

I’m very happy to see Meyer-Shank and Jack Harvey will run the entire season for the next two years.

Michael Shank has set a great example for other fledgling teams of how to build up to a full season. I admire his tireless work to get to this point.

Last year Harvey had good results in the first  part of the season where they ran the majority of their schedule. After the team took a break, they seemed to struggle in the remaining races which were scattered through the last part of the year. I’m hoping the consistency of running every race will provide even better results.

With Meyer-Shank in an alliance with Andretti, this eliminates any chance of another full time car. i wouldn’t be surprised if there is an extra entry for May, though.

Their video is very cool. Welcome to a full season, MSR.

Indycar Season Review- Newgarden Reclaims Title and Rookies Shine

Photo: Josef Newgarden on his way to clinching the championship at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Kyle McInnes

In some ways 2019 was an unusual season for the NTT Indycar Series. In other ways, it was a typical season.

Some unusual items:

All three of the championship contenders heading to the final race had at least one finish of 15th or worse.

The seven race winners each won multiple times. I can’t recall that ever happening before. Seven winners seems like the lowest total in a few years as well.

None of the three contenders won a race after July 20.

Alexander Rossi did not lead a lap after his dominating win at Road America on June 23.

Typically, Team Penske drivers led more than 900 laps and won nine races. The team also enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the final standings.

Josef Newgarden combined  consistency and some great pit strategy by Tim Cindric to jump to an early points lead which he held most of the season. Rossi climbed to within 16 points after Mid Ohio, but the lead expanded in the following race after Rossi’s involvement in the first lap incident at Pocono. Simon Pagenaud saved his job with his two brilliant victories in May. He had a 4.8 finishing average over the last six races and came up just 25 points short of his second title.

Rossi was dominating at Long Beach and Road America. He finished second in the Indianapolis 500. The rest of the time he was good, but not great. I thought Rossi was more consistent in 2018. Since his Road America win, Rossi had an average finish of 7.7

Dixon’s Title Defense Stalls

Scott Dixon’s season was typical of his title defense years. He never got going. 2019 was just the second time he has finished outside the top three in the standings.

Dixon finished second three times and third once in the first five races. A 17th place in the Indianapolis 500 followed by a crash and 22nd place in the first Belle Isle race put Dixon  in a hole he could not climb out of. He did bounce back to win the second race at Belle Isle and also won at Mid Ohio. Dixon now has 46 career wins, just six short of Mario Andretti for second place all time.

Rookies Have Outstanding Year

The four rookies- Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, and Santino Ferrucci- collectively had a season that any rookie group would be thrilled with. The class earned  2 wins, 4 poles, and 6 podiums. Ferrucci had an average finish on ovals of 6.2. Rosenqvist’s street/road course average was a respectable 7.1. Herta took most of the headlines with his three poles and two victories, but mechanical issues and accidents suppressed his averages and kept him behind in the points standings.

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Felix Rosenqvist edged Colton Herta for Rookie of the Year. Photo: Kyle McInnes

Rosenqvist won the Rookie of the Year title with a fierce drive at Laguna Seca from 14th to fifth to edge Herta by five points. He served notice at St. Petersburg that the rookies meant business when he passed Will Power on a restart. With Rosenqvist staying at Ganassi and Herta moving to the main Andretti team, I see a future rivalry between these two in a couple years.

Surprises and Disappointments

The biggest surprise of the year was Takuma Sato winning two races and earning two pole positions. Sato had a big slump beginning at Texas and was blamed for the early accident at Pocono. It would be nice to see him put a full season together.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank racing deserve consideration for driver and team of the year. Harvey earned the team’s first podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. In just 10 races, Harvey had four top ten finishes, got into the Fast Six twice, and finished on the lead lap in seven races. They seemed to struggle after their long break following Road America. If their plan to be full time in 2020 works out, they should be even better.

Zach Veach was probably the most disappointing driver. After finishing 2018 strongly, I thought he would have a great year. He lingered in the back half of the field most weekends and finished 18th in points, ahead of only Matheus Leist and Ed Jones among the drivers who drove all 17 races.

The Best and Not So Best

Not every race can be great, and like most years a few races stood out.

For me, the best races were the Indycar Grand Prix, Mid Ohio, Iowa, and Gateway.

The worst races in my opinion were Pocono, Detroit 1, Toronto, and Portland.

 

 

 

 

O’Ward on Road America Entry List

Photo: Pato O’Ward will again drive car 31 as he did in Detroit.

Pato O’Ward returns to Carlin Racing for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. O’Ward, who originally was thought to have a full season ride at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, signed a 12 race deal with Carlin after St. Pete.  It has since been announced that he will not run Gateway or Iowa. O’Ward is looking for funding to complete the NTT Indycar season.

His new contract with the Red Bull Junior program is awaiting approval of his super license. He may not be fully eligible for it at this time.

Also returning to the paddock is Jack harvey in the number 60 MSR entry. This race race is the seventh of Harvey’s 10 race program in 2019. He will also race at Mid Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca. Harvey had a career best third place finish at the Indycar Grand Prix in May.

Twenty three cars are on the entry list for the fourth race at Elkhart Lake since Indycar returned.

Look for a full preview on Thursday.