When Jack Harvey straps into his No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda on Saturday, June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, it will be the first time he has started a full-time season in four years.
Harvey, a 27-year-old from Bassingham, England, has never competed on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, Texas, either. Nor has his Meyer Shank Racing team, which is running its first full-time season with an alliance with Andretti Technologies.
The Genesys 300 (8 p.m. ET, NBC) will feature a condensed schedule for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The one-day show will feature a one-hour, 50-minute practice session, with 30 minutes set aside specifically for rookies. That will be followed by a qualifying session where each driver gets one lap to set their time and a race of 200 laps, trimmed from the scheduled 248 laps.
Plus, this weekend’s race marks the much-anticipated debut of the Aeroscreen, a ballistic, canopy-like device on the cockpit of Indy cars designed to better protect drivers.
All things considered; one could imagine the emotions running through Harvey’s mind. Nervous? No. Anxious? No. Excited? You bet.
“I think the mentality of it, like I said to the guys, as well, we really should be able to use this as a positive,” Harvey said. “Ultimately, I think not just for me, but for everybody on the team, everyone is excited to try to turn the page and get back to the racetrack. At the end of the day, we're here to race. We want to do the best we can. I’m excited, probably more excited now than how we felt in St. Pete in a lot of ways.”
Meyer Shank Racing debuted at the 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge with Harvey and finished 31st. The duo ran six races in 2018 and 10 in 2019. Earlier this year, the team committed to running the full NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule.
“These last two years we have been taking the season in stride and really learning how to build our program to the point where we can run all races,” team co-owner Michael Shank said. “(Last year was) great and Jack has produced some spectacular results for us, and we, as a team, are proud to have him back.”
The delayed start to the season, which was scheduled to begin March 15 in St. Petersburg, and the mental and emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone. But Harvey said he feels he and the Meyer Shank team adjusted as well as they could because for the last three years they have been used to large gaps in their part-time schedule.
From practicing on the iRacing simulator to regular virtual meetings with team engineers, watching the 2019 race at Texas and studying race data, Harvey said at times it felt as though it was business as usual. In all, Harvey said his preparation for this weekend’s race, with all the unknowns, doesn’t change from how he prepares for a racetrack where he has previously competed.
That said, Harvey enters this race with limited expectations. The goal is to learn and soak up as much information as possible while starting the season with positive momentum.
“I don't know what that looks like in terms of a result yet,” Harvey said. “Me and Michael (Shank) haven't gotten too heavily into that. (We’re) trying to balance being realistic with that hunger and that desire just to get the season off to a great start, naturally, like everybody. We want to get to the season and want to try to win, especially since it's been so long.”
Although he has run a limited NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule the past few years, Harvey is no stranger to finishing up front.
As an Indy Lights veteran, Harvey won the Freedom 100 in 2015 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the year he also won one of the two road course races in May at IMS in his last full-time season. In all, Harvey won six times in two Indy Lights seasons, in 2014 and 2015, and finished on the podium 18 times.
Because of that experience, and his success in Indy cars on the 2.439-mile road course at the Racing Capital of the World, it’s understandable why Harvey is excited to start the season. The second race on the schedule takes the series to the rescheduled GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 on the IMS road course, which is half of the first-ever INDYCAR-NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series triple-header weekend.
Last year, Harvey started third and scored his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES podium in the GMR Grand Prix with a third-place finish behind Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon. That was the best of his four top-10 finishes in 2019.
Excitement is the emotion for Harvey is exuding as he prepares to race this weekend under the lights and in prime time. But he insisted that as he prepares for the unique season, there’s one greater emotion that will be on his mind.
“The overwhelming feeling still is we're grateful to be doing every race,” Harvey said. “If we weren't at Texas and everybody else was, we'd probably be sat in the corner sulking. So, the positivity of it all is that we're just grateful to still be there having the headache of how we're going to approach this weekend, what does a good weekend look like.”