The Indianapolis 500 is a big race for everyone in motorsports. That’s the big one they all want to win. But, for one team owner, well two to be exact, winning on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course won’t ever top Indy, but it’s close.
Both Bobby Rahal and Michael Shank are from the area. Bobby Rahal has had the luxury of winning on his hometrack both as a driver as well as a team owner. Shank, is trying to get there in the owner category in the NTT IndyCar Series.
This is a big one for him as he’s happy to be back for a third year as an owner in the Indy Car paddock.
“It’s the top line priority, right?” Shank said on Thursday. “We’ve had what we feel is a pretty decent year this year, but we haven’t been able to finish like we think we deserve. Mid-Ohio would be my premium place to do it. It’s where I grew up.
“I can literally remember 1980 with my dad watching Johnny Rutherford run, I think they called it the Yellow Submarine Chaparral around the track and win the race. That’s my first memory of the of Mid-Ohio INDYCAR race.
“From the first day I ever was around a race car, INDYCAR at Mid-Ohio is what I strive for. It took a long time to get there. Super grateful to Jack. Obviously Jack and I worked on this for three or four years now. A lot of people that supported he and I, I think he would agree, to get us to this opportunity where we think we can actually put a podium effort together, which is where we’re at today.
“It’s a great story. I’m just super proud to be a part of it.”
They have a realistic shot at contending for a win in both races this weekend too. Jack Harvey may be from England but he knows just how much this track means to Shank. He gave him a podium at Indy on the road course last year. He qualified on the front row for the GMR Grand Prix at Indy this year. He finished in the top 10 last month for the Indy 500. He finished 10th at Mid-Ohio in last year’s race.
He’s given Shank the glory to see his car contend on the two biggest tracks for him. Now, they’ve got a real shot to get a podium this weekend.
“Actually Mid-Ohio is always the top of the list, especially when it’s the home race for the team,” Harvey said. “I love Mid-Ohio. It’s where I got my first win. I was in Michael’s home race. I think honestly, I only speak for myself, certainly it feels like a high positivity around the team. Just want to get on track again, mate, really. This year has been super busy when we’ve been on track. I like it, I like the format of the weekends.”
Harvey, qualified second at Indy and second again in Race 1 at Road America. He’s in fact had a top 10 starting spot in seven of the nine races run in 2020. The only two not were on superspeedway’s and we’re done with them this year. He had a top five car in both races in the last race weekend at the World Wide Technology Raceway in qualifying seventh and fifth respectively but bad luck with cautions and strategy took him out of top five runs. Same thing happened to him at Indy back on July 4.
The speed is there, he just needs some luck to go his way and a podium is coming again.
“A few races at the start of the year you look at, if we could choose to have a good result at them, what they would be,” Harvey continued. “It’s a track I have run pretty well at in the past. We had a good race last year. Although we haven’t had every great result I feel like we have speed to go and get, there’s a real positive and encouraging atmosphere within the team at the moment to keep trying till we get it. I think that’s all we can keep doing, is putting ourselves in a good position to try and have a great race.
“Even at the end of the race in Texas I thought we looked pretty good. There’s nowhere we’ve been this year where we really have struggled, lacked pace. Naturally you’re optimistic this will be the weekend we really get the result that the potential has been.”
Harvey is listed as one of the sleepers to win for those reasons. He’s okay with that pressure.
“I mean, naturally I would hope so,” said the Bassingham, England native. “As a team this year, I think we’ve shown that we can be consistently in the top 10. We’ve shown we can qualify at the front.
“As a team, we still feel like there’s a lot of — perhaps not a lot, but some low-hanging fruit for us to go and do the best we can. I certainly don’t feel like we need to go with any expectation other than we just need to execute the best weekend we can do. I feel like if we do that, yeah, I do feel like we can achieve podiums and race at Mid-Ohio for top fives, podiums.
“Frankly, if you’re in that battle, a win is only the right call going your way. Like I said to the guys, we’ve had a ton of speed this year. I can promise you there’s no complacency in this team. We haven’t gone to any track expecting to be fast. I think we’ve worked really hard. I think we deserve the speed that we’ve had and think we deserve because we’ve worked really hard. We’re going to keep working hard till we get the end result.
“Go as a favorite if it makes us feel good, that’s fine. All I want the guys to do is worry about what they have to do, execute to the best of their ability. This is a fantastic group of guys with extremely high potential.”
His team owner in Shank feels like if everything goes to plan, they have a top five potential on his home track.
“If the car is balanced for the track, we’re fully capable of being in the top five,” Shank said. “If we give him the right decisions on the track, we can be there. We’ve got the speed. We got all the bits. There’s nothing I can buy. We’re not missing anything, right? It’s a combination of a couple good decisions, not panicking if it doesn’t go our way.
“By the way, if you’re looking at the weather right now, we might have some challenges with the weather on Saturday. Trying to be ready for that also. There’s variables we haven’t been used to with rain. Straight up, we can be in the top five.”
This is a team to watch.