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Harvey test crash puts SPM race deal in jeopardy

A heavy shunt for young gun Jack Harvey in IndyCar’s Mid-Ohio test today has left a possible 2016 race deal in the balance, according to Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team owner Sam Schmidt.

Jack Harvey, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Sam Schmidt
Jack Harvey
Jack Harvey, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Jack Harvey, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Race winner Jack Harvey, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Zachary Claman DeMelo, Juncos Racing
Zachary Claman DeMelo, Juncos Racing

Schmidt Peterson Motorsport was testing former Indy Lights ace Harvey, and Lights rookie Zachary Claman De Melo the Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course in today’s test. Harvey finished runner-up in the Lights championship in both 2014 and ’15 for SPM, while De Melo races against SPM in Indy Lights, piloting Juncos Racing’s #13 car.

However, a shunt for Harvey in the morning session caused severe enough damage to halt his test program on the spot.

Said Schmidt: “Jack had a shunt at Turn 6 which is a little strange – not the usual place to crash there, and so unusual that there wasn’t a protective tire wall there so he hit a concrete wall.

“It was a typical rookie off-course excursion in one sense, losing the back end, but without tires there, that is why there was so much damage and why he was done for the day.

“For both Zach and him, we weren’t really treating them like rookies; we had given them actual tasks, a bunch of aero and damper stuff that we needed to get through and couldn’t use private days. So they had a strict regimen of things to do. But I want to say it was 11.30am, just before lunch, when Jack went off. He wasn’t doing anything crazy.

“So we’ll do a proper analysis of the car, because it’s extremely unlike Jack. In two years of racing Indy Lights for us, he never put a wheel wrong and crashed, unless someone drove into him. So we’ll look at it tomorrow and see what the deal was and go on.”

Schmidt says the shunt has now thrown into doubt his future plans for Harvey, which included giving him his IndyCar debut in this season.

“We had hoped to run Jack in a third car at either Watkins Glen or Sonoma, and use this test as a launch pad to create interest. But that might be too difficult now; I don’t know.

“Jack definitely has been deserving of a chance and has always raced well for us. And he’s spent the whole year sleeping on a couch in Indy and working for the team and helping out where he can; I give him credit for staying active and being a presence.

“But this accident may have thrown a wrench in our plans for this year at least, because it will be expensive. That would be a shame because I think he could be quite good in one of the big cars.”  

De Melo impresses

Schmidt said that Canada’s De Melo had impressed both himself and the team with his speed and composure on his first day testing an IndyCar.

He said: “Zach  did a hell of a job and his pace even against the regular guys was impressive. He was fastest of the rookies in a Honda, and quite quick, ran a clean day.

“He’s only in his second year of racing cars – although there were a lot of people who highly, highly rated him in karting. I even told his mom that I thought he was moving up the ranks a bit quick, and that I’d have gone the Pro Mazda route rather than Indy Lights at this stage. But he seems to have handled today pretty well.”

Schmidt there had been no issues with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport running a Juncos Racing driver, despite Juncos being one of SPM’s fiercest rivals in Indy Lights.

“Oh, no, no problem at all,” he said. “They were very helpful in transferring his seat over in Toronto, and it was all above board. We all talked in Toronto. Not an issue, totally transparent.

“Where it leads, I don’t know. I think Zach’s family and manager are looking at all contingencies for next year – Europe, Indy Lights again, limited IndyCar program… They’re just not sure what they want to do.”

Asked why a Juncos driver rather than his own Lights star this year, Santiago Urrutia, had gotten the SPM IndyCar test, Schmidt said: “I think Santi will do the day at Sonoma on September 8 for us. That’s been the plan all along.”

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