Let the Speculation Begin!

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It’s still July, and the silly season seems to be in full swing. A couple of weeks ago, Michael Andretti kicked things off when he remarked that a couple of cars could be in play at his team for 2022. He noted that Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi were both under contract, but that the other two cars could see some changes. It could be that he meant team personnel, but I think most took it to mean either James Hinchcliffe of Ryan Hunter-Reay could be gone at season’s end.

That started a lot of people speculating, but there were no real hard facts to deal with.

That all changed yesterday, when the first bombshell of the silly season was dropped yesterday. Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) actually dropped two big news items in one press release yesterday. The first bit of news was that four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves would run a full schedule for the team in 2022 in the No. 06. I wish they could come up with a real number. I’ve never cared for car numbers that start with a zero. Anyway, I didn’t really see that as a big surprise. When a big-name driver joins a still relatively new and winless team, and the first thing he does is win the Indianapolis 500 in his first race with the team – chances are, the team and driver are going to try and keep the magic going. Castroneves was already scheduled to run five of the six remaining races for MSR this season. Now they have bigger things to shoot for.

That bit of news paled in comparison to the other giant story that MSR dropped on us. Jack Harvey will not be driving with the team in 2022. MSR said that a new dynamic driver to be announced later will be in the No. 60 for next season.

It didn’t take long for all the speculation to get going. Was he fired? Did Harvey leave on his own? What brought this on? Does Harvey have something else lined up? At this point, we have more questions than answers.

Later in the day, Jack Harvey released a statement that indicated that this was his decision to leave MSR. What could prompt a driver to leave a team that he helped build from scratch?

Harvey

I immediately wondered if this had something to do with Castroneves. It’s easy to see where it would be frustrating for Harvey, to be there with the team from Day One and slowly build it up from three races in 2017, to six in 2018, then to ten in 2019, before finally going full-time in 2020. The team was built around Jack Harvey.

Then an interloper came to the team in 2021. He was an outspoken and boisterous Brazilian with a beefy resume. Harvey got off to a decent start to the 2021 season, but he struggled in May. While he was struggling, his new teammate won the Indianapolis 500 in his first race with the new team. After one race, Helio Castroneves was enjoying the fruits of Harvey’s labor for the past five years. Helio was suddenly the toast of the team, while Harvey was struggling. Since the Indianapolis 500, Harvey has scored no better than sixteenth. I can certainly understand where a little animosity could have been brewing.

It’s not unusual for teammates to dislike each other off of the track, but those disputes rarely cause one of the drivers to leave the team. I really saw no way that Helio’s presence could have been enough to drive Harvey from the team he helped start. But the timing of the two news items being announced in one press release, made you wonder if the two were connected.

In Harvey’s statement, he thanked all of the usual people in a situation such as this. But in the next to the last paragraph, I caught something that really shifted my speculation into high gear. He thanked the team at AutoNation. The last sentence of that paragraph said “I’m so thankful for your support and guidance and I’m pleased that we’ll be able to continue our relationship well into the future.”

Go back to what I mentioned earlier about Michael Andretti saying that the cars of James Hinchcliffe and/or Ryan Hunter-Reay could see changes. Who is one of Hunter-Reay’s associate sponsors? AutoNation.

Meyer Shank Racing and Andretti Autosport have been sharing a technical alliance for the past two years. In essence, you could call Jack Harvey a quasi-Andretti driver for the past two seasons. I’m simply speculating here, but if I am connecting the dots correctly – I’m thinking it is entirely possible that Jack Harvey could be moving over to Andretti Autosport to drive the No. 28 car, and that it is actually Ryan Hunter-Reay that is out of a ride.

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hunter-Reay hangs up his helmet and calls it a career. He will turn forty-one in the offseason. He has won an IndyCar championship (2012) and an Indianapolis 500 (2014). At this age, he has nothing left to prove and little to gain by continuing his career. He has a beautiful young family and if I was in his shoes, I would be very happy turning my attention to them.

Jack Harvey turned twenty-eight at the start of the season. His age is more in line with the other drivers at Andretti. Perhaps he felt like he had grown as much as he was going to with MSR. Given the close alliance between the two teams, it is not out of the question that a driver and/or crewmember may be poached by the more established team.

For Harvey’s sake, I hope this is exactly how it plays out. If not, I’m not sure I see another available seat for him out there.

Later in the day, Marshall Pruett of Racer.com reported that many insiders are saying that Harvey’s likely destination is Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, either for the third car that Santino Ferrucci has been doing so well in on a part-time basis or to replace Takuma Sato. Would Sato be moving to another team or simply retiring before turning forty-five in January?

And what about the seat that Harvey has just vacated? Who gets that ride? I’ve seen Rinus VeeKay’s name mentioned, as well as the name of Felix Rosenqvist. I’m not too sure. Is MSR a step up from Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR)? I wouldn’t think so. Before this past May, MSR was a winless team. ECR has won several races in the past decade. Besides, unless Team Penske drops Simon Pagenaud before next season and hires VeeKay – I think VeeKay returns to ECR next season. Unless Rosenqvist has been told he’s out at Arrow McLaren SP, I don’t know why he would consider such a move. Perhaps Harvey is headed to McLaren and the two drivers may end up doing a ride-swap.

My guess…and it is strictly that – a guess…is that Romain Grosjean may be brought in to the No. 60 to pair up with Helio Castroneves. Grosjean has shown how well he can adapt to tracks he has never been to before, in equipment that is not the best on the grid. The second car at Dale Coyne Racing is not known for its prowess. Grosjean appears to be very happy at Dale Coyne, but if he gets the results he has gotten in the second Coyne car; imagine what he might do in an Andretti engineered car.

This would obviously be a short-term solution. Helio Castroneves will turn forty-seven next May, while Grosjean turns thirty-six next April. Neither would be considered youthful Grosjean is getting long in the tooth, while Helio is just plain old. But both drivers could show this team how to win now, and set the stage for a younger driver coming up. MSR would then be higher up in the pecking order of desirable teams than they are now, even after coming off of a strong Indianapolis 500 win.

We are still two weeks away from the opening practice for the Music City Grand Prix, and we’ve already had the first major moves in the silly season – both by the same team. Something tells me there will be more before the teams make it to Nashville.

George Phillips

Please Note: With us heading into the third of four straight off-weekends, I am going to take a very small break myself. There will be no post here this Monday July 26. I will return on Wed July 28. I hope everyone has a great weekend. – GP

15 Responses to “Let the Speculation Begin!”

  1. OliverW Says:

    Its such a lottery however my pick is:
    Harvey to SP
    Askew to Shank
    Kirkwood to Andretti
    Santino to RRL

    RHR, Hinch and maybe Sato out

    Grosjean to move
    KMAg to join
    Hulkenburg hovering

  2. Just read another Pruett article this morning that once again sort alludes that Harvey is on his way to Team Rahal. I find that scenario very curious.

    1) If Jack is replacing Taku in the #30 car, where is the sponsorship $$$ coming from? Panasonic and the extra money from Honda are out if Sato’s not in that ride.

    2) Is Jack going to race a 3rd car for Bobby? If so, what a bum deal for Santino. “Hey, Ferrucci, race the wheels off this thing these last six races so the car can finish in the Leader’s Circle, then I can take that 1.2 M and use it to put another driver in the car full time next year.” I mean, that’s the business of racing, but still….would sure suck for Santino.

    George mentioned Harvey’s comment about him continuing with AutoNation. Maybe it is Sato’s car, and AutoNation is heading over with him to sponsor the #30? Hey, as the post title reads, “Let the Speculation Begin”!

  3. Phil Kaiser Says:

    George, why would you infer Helio and Jack don’t get along? If you know something then come out and say it, but I call BS on that; you have absolutely no proof and are starting a rumor seemingly for the fun of it. You should’ve at LEAST written “this is pure speculation” before that bit.

    By the way, Harvey is completely TIRED of the horrible pit crew he has been saddled with while at Shank. Guy busts his ass qualifying only to have a mediocre to poor pit crew louse things up race after race. Folks are saying that it ain’t all the pit crew, but when he returns to the race after a pit stop and the car is near undriveable how is that his fault?

    Just my two cents, your results may vary….

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      Oh, and you and the right reverend Dalby are not the only one with contacts….

    • I know nothing. If you go back and read what I wrote, I said “I immediately wondered”. That means I was thinking out loud. This is nothing more than speculation, which this entire post is about.

    • Calm down calm down

      • Phil Kaiser Says:

        Hey Ollie, if someone was ascribing emotions YOU don’t have towards someone else, how would you like it, Mr. calm boy?

        And GEORGE: again I call BS! The place where you said, “I immediately wondered,” was two complete paragraphs before you start another paragraph stating, and I quote, “It’s not unusual for teammates to dislike each other off of the track….” Where in the hell do you get that? I’ve not heard, nor seen anything to that effect anywhere, so prove it. Did you hear it from Trackside? Then say so, I don’t listen to that show any longer and haven’t ever since Cavin became an IndyCar mouthpiece. Was it in Autosport.com? Paul Dalby make it up? Speculating on something like that is not professional, in MY opinion, and I am allowed to have one.

        Not cool to ascribe emotions nobody has said they have. You’re better than that my man.

        • WTF did I do, Mr Kiaser? Why are you dragging me into your rage-infested diatribe? You come here to piss on George’s post and calling him ”not professional” as if this is his profession and then drag other people into the argument who haven’t opined presumably based on some argument from who knows how long ago (that I don’t even know about). It’s like dealing with an ex-girlfriend.

        • On a related note, it’s nice to see you back posting under your actual name, Bif.

        • Mr. Calm Boy Says:

          Why are you dragging me into this?

  4. billytheskink Says:

    While Harvey having Autonation on his race cars does not predate his time with Shank, he did actually line them up as a sponsor prior to joining Shank (he was supposed to carry their logo for Andretti at Indy in 2017 before Alonso showed up) and seems to have continued to have a close relationship with them. Like RHR, he has appeared in their TV commercials. I expect he can take that sponsorship about wherever he pleases.

  5. SkipinSC Says:

    All I know is tune in to Trackside on Tuesday and read George’s interpretation on Wednesday.

  6. Well I hope Jack finds a seat which enables him to show his true speed consistently.

    • I hope so too, Trevor. I think Jack has shown growth in his craft. I also have wondered if Andretti is where he will land. I just am not sure Rahal is the best fit.

  7. Glad that they didn’t fire Harvey. That would mean spending years grooming Harvey to drop him for a 47 year old, not the best long term decision. Helio has probably earned a full time ride but outside of Indy, I expect him to struggle and prove, much like Kanaan, that his best years are in the past. Hard to build new talent that Indycar desperately needs, with these nearly 50 year old drivers taking seats. There aren’t the part time, scrapper teams out there for them to go to, Helio and Tony are taking a true spot that is stunting the series growth, in the driver department at least.

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