Meyer Shank Racing is really building something special here. Nothing against Jack Harvey in the slightest. He helped bring this organization to where they are today. Without his help, they don’t bring out a second car this season. They don’t land Helio Castroneves as a result.
In turn, Harvey doesn’t get to his next destination, all signs pointing to that being Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing either. But, with Harvey leaving, it opened up a seat in the No. 60 Honda for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season.
Back this summer, the team announced that they’ll expand from one full time car and one part time car to two full-time entries next year. Castroneves will remain in the No. 06 Honda. Why break that up.
Now, we know of his teammate. It’s his former Team Penske teammate of Simon Pagenaud. Yes, the Frenchman turned down remaining at Penske for MSR.
“Next year will be a big year for MSR and I think we have a very strong lineup of drivers between Simon and Helio,” said Mike Shank. “We have built this program every year, growing with our partners and working to have all the ingredients we need to be competitive. Our Indianapolis 500 win was a big breakthrough, and we are looking forward to having a consistently competitive program that will have the chance to fight for wins and podiums no matter where we go and I think this lineup will help us do that.”
It makes all too much sense too.
Pagenaud, didn’t have much of a future beyond next season with Penske. A return would likely pit him with more of a sports car future and now in INDYCAR. While Pagenaud isn’t against running in sports cars, something he still values, he doesn’t want to turn his back on a pursuit of another INDYCAR championship. He wants to be full time. This series is home.
Well, MSR not only gives him a full time offer in what’s shaping up to be a team on the rise, but they have a sports car program too which would allow him to run the endurance races should he choose to do so.
Same for Castroneves who was with Penske for most of his career before being squeezed out and into their sports car program for 2018. He had an Indy only seat for 2018, 2019 and 2020, but with Scott McLaughlin coming over for 2021, they didn’t have room for him anymore.
So, he joined MSR for the Indy 500 and five other races. It paid off. Castroneves, started eighth and looked like his oldself with MSR back in May. He led 20 of 200 laps en route to his record tying fourth Indianapolis 500 triumph. It was MSR’s first and only win and really helped propel them to the next level up.
They joined INDYCAR an an Indy 500 one-off in 2017 with an alliance with Andretti Autosport. Harvey was their driver. He finished 31st. The next year their plan was to run six races, all with Harvey all with a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports alliance. He’d finish 16th in the Indy 500 with a best result that year of 12th in Long Beach.
For 2019, they’d grow to 10 races, all again with Harvey and SPM. Again, all part of the plan. One off to get their feet wet. To six races. To 10. To full time?
Harvey, started 2019 off with two straight top 10’s, then a podium a few races later on the Indy road course. 4 of their 10 races were top 10’s. They were ready for the jump into a full time foray.
The thing is, SPM merged with McLaren and that left MSR eyeing a new alliance. An old friend came to help. With Harding Steinbrenner closing up, MSR filled that void.
Harvey remained as the driver and for 2020, they were full time with an Andretti technical alliance. They had six top 10’s in 14 races and a career year.
For 2021, they’d come back in the same form. But, the eyes were on expansion. They wanted a second car. In came Castroneves to help Harvey’s growth. It helped. Helio won at Indy. He finished ninth in Nashville. But, Harvey in the meantime found a hew ride to further his growth which left MSR searching.
They didn’t have to search long. They landed on Pagenaud.
Now, they’ll be among one of the more popular teams in the series next year. It’s great marketing for them. Two of the last three Indy 500 champions are now a part of the team.
“This is such an exciting time in my career,” said Pagenaud. “MSR has proven it is a high-quality organization when they won the Indianapolis 500 and pairing Helio and me together will help our team in 2022 and beyond. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”
Castroneves, will enter 2022 with 356 starts, 31 wins, 50 poles, 94 podiums, 142 top fives, 229 top 10’s and 6,057 laps led.
Pagenaud enters with 182 starts, 15 wins, 12 poles, 37 podiums, 69 top fives, 125 top 10’s and 1,313 laps led.
Harvey leaves with 49 starts, no wins, one podium, three top fives, 15 top 10’s and six laps led.
See the growth? They started off on the ground in 2017. They grew in 2018. Grew more in 2019. Grew even bigger in 2020. Won a race, Indy at that, in 2021. Now, they have two Hall of Famers under their umbrella in 2022 with a great opportunity to take MSR to heights they’d never expect to be at this soon. 2022 will only be their fifth year in. Did they expect to be here this soon, this early?
Nevertheless, they’ll roll into the Month of May next year with the focus on if Castroneves can become the first five-time winner. That’s mainstream news. They’ll get other attention on if Pagenaud can follow Castroneves in the same fashion of reviving his career with this team.
It’s a win-win for all sides.