Shank weighing his options for Harvey replacement

Meyer Shank Racing co-owners Michael Shank and Jim Meyer had every intention of re-signing Jack Harvey to a multi-year contract, but that plan changed when Harvey informed MSR he will be stepping away at the end of the season to pursue a new opportunity at another team.

As a trio, Harvey, Shank, and Meyer turned an idea for the Indy Lights veteran to graduate to IndyCar into a five-year partnership where the Briton introduced Meyer to Shank, and brought AutoNation to MSR. Although Harvey’s decision to leave came as a surprise, his expected destination at Rahal Letterman Racing as Graham Rahal’s new teammate comes at a time of expansion and optimism for RLL.

“The absolute truth is we’re going to run Jack for six more races, and we’re all 100 percent into trying to win each and every one of those six races with Jack,” Shank told RACER. “There’s no bad blood, there’s no animosity, but I think people would like it to be that way.

“No one got fired. That’s number one. The next thing is, we’ll have the same exact debate like we had about Helio. Do we do we want someone that can produce right away? Or do we want someone that’s new, can contribute down the line, who might be the best long-term person for us, and best for our sponsors? This isn’t b******. This is what I’m thinking about.”

Among the championship-winning free agents to consider, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay would fit the veteran bill. The upcoming vacancy in the No. 60 MSR Honda will also give the Ohio-based team a chance to find another young charger to complement its new full-timer in Helio Castroneves who will be in the Indy 500-winning No. 06 Honda throughout 2022.

While choosing drivers for the No. 06 Honda during the last offseason, MSR whittled its shortlist down to Castroneves and former Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew. Although Castroneves was ultimately selected, Askew remains on MSR’s radar, and there’s another interesting angle that could emerge.

With its technical alliance with Andretti Autosport, Indy Lights championship leader Kyle Kirkwood – who drives for Andretti – could also be on the shortlist if he’s unable to land a seat with the main team. Akin to Andretti’s outsourcing of Colton Herta to Harding Steinbrenner Racing when all of the Andretti Autosport seats were filled, the 22-year-old from Florida, who’s drawing attention from a few IndyCar teams, might be a perfect fit for MSR and its technical partner.

“We’ll go down the list and we’ll figure out who we think will suit our needs,” Shank said. “We haven’t decided yet on the timing of it. We could go do a Gong Show-type thing with a bunch of drivers, although I hate doing them. But they can be productive for us. But with that said, we want to be settled down here in the next four to six weeks with the driver for the 60 car, and it’s a vetting process. It’s truly a surprise for all of us that we’re here looking for someone. We weren’t headed this direction, but you know, things happen.”

In a note shared with his fans on social media, Harvey thanked MSR while looking to a new future at another destination in the NTT IndyCar Series paddock.

“It’s a certainty in life that things will change and I am incredibly thankful for my time at Meyer Shank Racing,” he wrote. “There is no doubt I would not be where I am today without their support. We’re often faced with difficult decisions in our lives, and this was no exception, but there are many opportunities on the road ahead and I’m eager to share my long-term plans. For now, I’ll remain focused on my performance each week. I’m hungrier than ever to get my first IndyCar win and the team at Meyer Shank Racing has proven that it’s possible.”