My Pick For a Breakout Season in 2020

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With all of the upheaval that went on at the team formerly known as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and now known as Arrow McLaren SP; one key aspect of these changes has flown way further under the radar than one would expect. When Sam Schmidt announced that his new alliance with McLaren would include a switch from Honda to Chevy, it affected much more than James Hinchcliffe’s personal contract with Honda, and specifically Honda of Canada. It also sent Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) scrambling to find a new technical partner, because they had no interest in leaving Honda.

That’s why Michael Andretti will be so busy this coming season. Along with running five fulltime teams under banner of Andretti Autosport, the team will also be responsible for providing technical assistance to Meyer Shank Racing in 2020, much the same way they did for Harding Steinbrenner in 2019.

Colton Herta won two races for Harding Steinbrenner as a rookie with that Andretti Association. Herta and what is left of Harding Steinbrenner will be racing directly under the Andretti Autosport umbrella in 2020. That means that five cars will be racing in the Andretti Autosport stable. Besides Herta, the other Andretti cars will be driven by Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach. Those five drivers represent two Indianapolis 500 wins, one IndyCar championship and twenty-seven IndyCar victories. Zach Veach, who is about to enter his third season, is the only driver that did not contribute to at least one of those categories.

Like Herta in 2019, I think MSR and driver Jack Harvey will benefit tremendously from their association with Andretti Autosport in 2020.

The two teams worked together in 2017 in a one-off effort for the Indianapolis 500. It was Harvey’s first time to ever race in an Indy car. Harvey qualified twenty-seventh and finished thirty-first, after getting caught up in debris from Conor Daly’s crash on Lap 65. This was also the same year that Andretti Autosport had partnered with McLaren and Fernando Alonso, so Harvey and MSR may not have gotten the team’s full attention.

Ironically, Alonso is heavily rumored to be running this year’s Indianapolis 500 with Andretti again this season – in a seventh car one-off for Andretti. But by now, Harvey is considered somewhat of a veteran, even though he and his team will be running the entire season for the first time in 2020. But I don’t see Harvey or MSR suffering from a lack of attention for this season or the Indianapolis 500.

Jack Harvey drove ten races last year, up from six in 2018. In only ten of seventeen races last season, Harvey scored only seventy-five points less than fulltime driver Matheus Leist, who started every race. Harvey started the season with Top-Ten finishes in the first two races at St. Petersburg and COTA. He scored his first-ever podium finish in the IndyCar GP at Indianapolis. He had solid runs in his first eight races before two straight disappointing nineteenth-place finishes to close the season at Portland and Laguna Seca.

The pressure is always on for all series drivers to perform throughout the season, but the spotlight is on several drivers at Andretti Autosport for 2020. Alexander Rossi fell short of his goal of winning the IndyCar title last season and faded down the stretch, when it mattered most – in three of the last four races – and finished a disappointing third in the championship. Ryan Hunter-Reay went winless in 2019 and finished eighth in points. He is now thirty-nine and is desperate to prove his skills have not eroded with age. Zach Veach did not follow up on a moderately successful rookie campaign with a good second season. It is believed he must produce some strong results to hang on to his seat beyond this season. Marco Andretti? Well, Marco has set the bar fairly low in recent seasons. There are no real expectations for his going forward.

Some believe that the brightest spotlight will be on Colton Herta. Many expect him to build on a rookie season that found him in victory lane twice. What some seem to forget is that Herta made an awful lot of rookie mistakes last season. After winning the second race of the season at COTA, he put up four DNFs in a row for the next four races. That inconsistency cost him the series Rookie of the Year award.

Except for Marco Andretti, each Andretti Autosport driver is driving under tremendous pressure. All things considered, however – I don’t think Jack Harvey is under that much pressure to perform. That’s when a lot of drivers thrive. He had solid results last year with Sam Schmidt when he sometimes outperformed his two fulltime teammates Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson.

I think most would agree that Harvey and MSR have upgraded their situation by aligning themselves with Andretti Autosport over Schmidt Peterson Motorsport and Arrow McLaren SP. They leave the newly combined team that failed to qualify a car for the past two Indianapolis 500s to go to a team that won three of four Indianapolis 500s between 2014 and 2017 and is always a threat to win.

Jack Harvey is fortunate to leave the drama-filled Arrow McLaren SP to go to a team with a long history of winning. I truly believe that Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are both in store for a breakout season in 2020. Sometimes it’s good to be under the radar and be the team that no one is talking about heading into the season. I’m thinking that will no longer be the case by the end of the season.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “My Pick For a Breakout Season in 2020”

  1. Yes, hoping for great things from JH this season.

  2. I really like both Jack and Mike, hope they have a great season.

  3. paige3146077 Says:

    As a longtime MSR fan who’s also grown to love Jack in recent years (I liked him back in Indy Lights too), I would love to see them have a big breakout season.

    I am trying to keep my expectations low but I definitely think they can have a solid first full-time INDYCAR season. They’re a good race team and have an excellent alliance.

    Ready for the season to start!

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Had the long-time CART points system been in place last season, Harevy would have scored 23 points, more than full-timer Zach Veach (18) and Matteus Leist (17) and within one solid finish of catching Tony Kanaan (28), Marco Andretti (25), and Marcus Ericsson (33). Harvey trounced all of the comparable part-timers on the circuit last year (Jones, Chilton, Kimball, O’Ward, only Conor Daly was within 10 points of him) with the exception of Ed Carpenter.

    Granted, the majority of Harvey’s CART points came from his IndyGP podium, the remainder from a trio of 10th place finishes… but he nevertheless showed definite promise. I would still expect an up-and-down year from Harvey and he may not match that podium from last year, but I also expect those 10th place finishes to turn into 5th-8th place finishes. He’s good and he should continue to improve. Future race winner? I think that’s as likely as not.

  5. Oliver Wells Says:

    My concern is the number of entries being run by or supported by the Andretti team. For me it’s Rossi, Colton & Harvey with RHR occasionally mixing it and bye bye to Veach and hopefully Marco as his performances belittle the Family name. But 7 cars at the 500? That’s an ask. I also wonder how Rossi feels having supposedly turned down RP due to him being a fourth entry. It will be interesting for sure.

  6. It seemed that Veach tried too hard many times last year and made some bad mistakes. I think Harvey will continue to improve with a full time experience. I hope young Herta wins at least three or four races. Can we start next week?

  7. I am growing into a MSR fan in multiple series, and Jack Harvey fan as well. I felt he was on the rise last season and poised for his second Indycar podium and possible win at Portland last year but we know how quickly that race ended, through some poor judgement by another driver from behind.

  8. Solid pick, George. The first half of 2019 was great for them. I felt the time off between races after Indy hurt their momentum a bit. Running the full season should help.

  9. Froochie will be my pick for a breakout season in 2020.

  10. RIP John Andretti.

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