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Harvey Hopes Schedule Gain, Weight Loss Lead to Month of May Success

The drive toward the 2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is a matter of gain and loss for driver Jack Harvey.

Gain, because Harvey’s program with Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM will increase to 10 of the 17 races on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule in 2019, including the INDYCAR Grand Prix and 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s an increase from six races last year. Primary sponsors AutoNation and SiriusXM also remain onboard this season.

Loss, because Harvey revamped his diet and lost nearly 25 pounds in the six months since the 2018 season ended in mid-September.

“The reason we did it was obvious performance reasons,” Harvey said. “You never want to be overweight in the car because that’s lap time for free.

“It also was a big ask in the offseason and try to generate the interest and ask everybody else to work harder. The driver, as much as anyone else, is the leader of the team. And if I’m asking them to work harder and find ways to improve, I better start with me. Those were the two main reasons behind it.”

Like all NTT IndyCar Series drivers, Englishman Harvey is a regular at the gym, building muscle and endurance while working off calories. And he never appeared pudgy in his driver’s suit. But he knew his diet could be better.

There are quite a few popular diet trends these days, such as Paleo, Mediterranean and keto. But Harvey took an even simpler path to shedding weight – he started counting calories.

“When you look at it over the week, if you’re not careful, you overeat by 200 or 300 calories per day, and then you’ve eaten eight days of food in seven days,” Harvey said. “That’s a lot of training to work off. My calorie count for the day isn’t stupidly low. It’s manageable.”

He also started drinking diet soda instead of regular and trimmed his “cheat nights” to just one per week instead of thinking his regular workout regimen allowed him to eat with abandon two or three nights per week.

The result was gradual weight loss that accumulated like a snowball rolling down a hill of fresh powder. Harvey admits his competitive nature shifted into high gear once the numbers on the scale started shrinking, which helped him maintain discipline.

“It’s 2 pounds, 2 pounds, 2 pounds, gradual weight loss,” Harvey said. “As I dialed that in, I saw a bigger performance gain in my training, as well.

“That circle was spiraling. I was seeing better results. As I was seeing better results, I got more and more into it. Now when I go out, I’m starting to build good habits. I’d hate to be that person who loses a bit of weight and says: ‘Oh, it’s easy. It’s not a struggle.’”

Finding success in the Month of May at IMS could be less of a struggle this season for Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing. Two-time Indy Lights series runner-up Harvey and the team are scheduled to compete in all four NTT IndyCar Series races leading into the Month of May, a change from the last two seasons.

Harvey, 25, made his Indy 500 debut in 2017 with Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport, qualifying 27th and ending up 31st after being eliminated in a two-car crash on Lap 66. He figured his second start, last year with Meyer Shank Racing with SPM, would be easier.

“I’m not embarrassed to say but you can’t but help get caught up in the grandeur of the event, the significance of the event (as a rookie),” Harvey said. “Not only what happens at the track but the media attention.

“On the off days, I wanted to go grocery shopping, and people wanted to talk with me. I’m not used to that. To some degree, when June and July roll in, you go back to some sort of normality. But you can’t help but get caught up in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ It’s a show as much as it is a race, and that’s why it’s the crown jewel of our season.

“It was amazing how much more comfortable I felt in the second May than in the first go-round.”

Well, at least until Bump Day.

Harvey made his qualifying attempt at 5:09 p.m., just 41 minutes before the end of qualifying. He was forced to hurry up and wait, watching nervously to see if his speed would stay in the top 33 to get a chance to requalify for position the next day. It did – barely. Harvey then qualified 31st on Sunday with a four-lap average speed of 225.224 mph.

“That was the most stressful day I’ve had at a racetrack,” Harvey said. “It wasn’t enjoyable. There was nothing fun about it. The only good thing was that we were able to qualify on Sunday. That was the most relief I’ve ever felt. Instant relief.”

He finished 16th on Race Day, completing all 200 laps. It was a dramatic improvement from his rookie year in 2017, something to build upon this May.

“If someone said choose one race to win, just one, and that was the only race you ever got to win, it would be the Indy 500,” Harvey said. “A lot of effort on our side has gone into putting ourselves into position to not have to worry about Bump Day and hopefully have a good Month of May.”

Tickets are on sale now for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, scheduled for Sunday, May 26 at IMS.

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