In Need of a Quick Turnaround

One of the bigger sources of irritation for many fans of the NTT IndyCar Series, is the fact that Linus Lundqvist does not have an IndyCar ride for 2023. Lundqvist won the 2022 Indy Lights championship, but has been on the sidelines while drivers he beat last year obtained seats for 2023.

We learned on Monday that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLLR) will test Lundqvist in an Indy car on the 1.5-mile oval at Texas Motor Speedway Monday April 3, the day after the PPG 375. The hope is to run him in a few races later this year after the Indianapolis 500, where Katherine Legge has already been named to a fourth RLLR car.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist; I am connecting a few dots, reading between the lines or however you want to phrase it – but I interpret this as the first official notice to Jack Harvey that his seat may be in jeopardy. Not that we didn’t suspect that anyway, but I don’t think Bobby Rahal is just testing the waters or being nice to Lundqvist just to help ease his disappointment from not being in a car this season.

This is nothing but pure speculation on my part, but I see this as the team auditioning drivers for the No. 30 car, in case Harvey has a similar season to the disaster that was his 2022 season.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a heralded signing of a new driver by a team, go so far south so quickly, as Jack Harvey’s at RLLR last season. If you recall, less than two years ago, Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) was building their team around Jack Harvey. Helio Castroneves had been announced as their second driver for the Indianapolis 500, but Harvey was who they started their IndyCar program with and he was their cornerstone.

Later that summer, Harvey jumped ship in a surprise announcement that he was going to the third car at RLLR. Many people, including myself, thought that the third car would go to Santino Ferrucci, since he had driven several races with the team that summer, as well as a sixth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500. Some thought it might go to Oliver Askew, since he drove the last three races of 2021 in the third Rahal car. But it was Harvey that got the nod for the No. 45 car with Hy-Vee sponsorship for the entire season.

It was not a good start to the season, when Harvey finished a forgettable thirteenth at St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, it would be August before he bested that finish with e tenth in the crash-fest at Nashville. That would be his only Top-Ten all season as Harvey struggled mightily to a twenty-second place finish in the points.

In the offseason, it was announced that Harvey and teammate Christian Lundgaard would essentially swap rides. Harvey would step into the No. 30 that Lundgaard drove to a fourteenth place finish in points as a rookie; while Lundgaard would get the much more visible Hy-Vee sponsored No. 45 that Harvey struggled in last year.

I think it’s safe to say that Bobby Rahal and the rest of upper management at RLLR do not think it was the car or the team that was holding Harvey back. Otherwise they never would have made the move to move Lundgaard to a lesser car. I don’t know if it was a reward for Lundgaard or a punishment for Harvey, but if I’m connecting more dots, it appears that Hy-Vee wanted better results – so the switch was made.

This season has gotten off to an even worse start for Harvey, but to be fair – he did out-qualify his teammate Graham Rahal by one position. Harvey qualified nineteenth, while Rahal was twentieth on the grid. Lundgaard qualified eleventh. But when the race started, Rahal started moving through the field while Harvey stayed back in the pack. Harvey’s day ended on Lap 41, when he got caught up in Rinus VeeKay’s accident that resulted in Kyle Kirkwood sailing over the wrecked car of Harvey’s. He finished twenty-second.

Harvey was not cleared to drive until this past Friday, almost two weeks after the crash. Harvey missed last year’s Texas race with a concussion suffered in a Saturday practice crash. He could ill-afford to miss this year’s race coming up next weekend.

What has gone wrong with this move? Clearly, something is not working. Personally, I believe Jack Harvey is a good driver. I think he got about as much from some of the cars MSR gave him in their formative years as anyone. I always wondered what he would do with top-notch equipment. Just as the team was growing and showing signs of improvement, he bolted for the newly formed third team at RLLR and it’s been a disaster from the start.

Do they set cars up differently at Rahal? Does Jack Harvey not gel with Graham Rahal or Christian Lundgaard? Is there internal strife that we don’t know about? There has to be something along those lines, because I don’t think Jack Harvey suddenly forgot how to drive a race car, once he mode the move.

It’s hard to believe we are only one race into the 2023 season and it seems Harvey is already in desperation mode. He was probably feeling the pressure already after such a bad season last year. Now that he knows Linus Lundqvist may run a few races with the team, Harvey’s collar probably just got a little tighter. If he was lacking motivation before, maybe the sight of Lundqvist hanging around the Rahal pits can add an extra spark.

We’ll see if Harvey can reverse his fortunes at RLLR in the next several races. For his sake, I hope he does. He seems to be a good guy and I hate to see good guys fall flat on their face. But if he doesn’t pick up the pace beginning at Texas, and if Lundqvist comes in and performs – Jack Harvey may not even last the season at Rahal. While that would be a shame, racing is a results business and the results have not been there for Jack Harvey at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “In Need of a Quick Turnaround”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    I don’t really know what to read into RLL testing Lundqvist at Texas when they (by all appearances) aren’t going to run him at Indianapolis. I guess it is better prep for other races than no prep, but still strange. Or perhaps (dumb theory wheels turning…) Linus is in the mix for a 34th entry at Indy and needs a high speed oval test prior, with RLL being the team willing to provide it.

    At this point, I think we know a few things about Harvey as a driver. For one, he’s proven to be a better qualifier than racer (which does not preclude success when you become great at the former and very good at the latter, see Bobby Unser or Will Power). For another, he seems to struggle to with managing his tires to the end of a stint, which goes hand in hand with his race vs. qualifying struggles. Shank regularly did Harvey no favors with pit strategy, but he was also dropping positions and time late in stints in those cars as well.

    I do wonder if last year’s Texas wreck is still affecting him, he really does not seem to be quite the same driver since. I suppose more races will show whether that speculation is still worth considering.

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