Top Honda qualifying result validates MSR’s IndyCar rise

Evidence of Meyer Shank Racing’s stellar start to the IndyCar season was on display again over qualifying weekend at the Indianapolis 500 where the team fired the No. 60 Honda with Felix Rosenqvist into ninth position among the field of 33.

More importantly, it was the first time in the Pataskala, Ohio-based program’s history where it was the fastest Honda on Pole Day as the smiley Swede displaced the 15 other Honda-powered cars presented by their rivals at Andretti Global, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“This was my number one thing,” Shank told RACER. “I knew we didn’t have pole speed. I knew that. But I said, ‘Guys, what do we need to be the No. 1 Honda team?’ That means a lot to me. And they did it with the 60 car with Felix and I’m so grateful.


“It just shows that our overall execution, with Adam Rovazzini running the show, has really gone well and gotten the people on the same page. And it’s honestly getting stronger. It’s a big thundercloud motivation going in the right direction from where we were last year, and I’m super proud of it. It’s probably the proudest thing I’ve done so far this year. I’m not kidding.”

Winners of the Indy 500 in 2021 with Helio Castroneves, MSR has spent the ensuing years chasing its second IndyCar victory. Between Rosenqvist in ninth, the returning Castroneves who starts 20th, and rookie Tom Blomqvist who’s lined up in 25th, MSR has some great options to achieve success on Sunday.

The fruits of its technical alliance with Andretti Global are also clear to see as MSR has made use of the Andretti-supplied race engineers and setup information to lead both camps heading into the 500.

“I’m proud of the steps we’ve made as a team, but let’s not get it twisted, because we still heavily rely on them technically,” Shank said. “For where we’re at right now, their program is very, very good and the Andretti technical group has risen this year from last year. If you just take our chassis and aero group, it is better than last year, there’s no question in my mind.

“Michael Andretti and his group with [COO] Rob Edwards and Eric Bretzman that runs the technical side, they have been nothing but great partners to us, and I’m grateful to them – I’ve told them that. I think we had some stuff on our side that we needed to clean up from last year, and we did and all the groups are just working really good together.”

The 2024 Indy 500 is MSR’s most ambitious effort to date in IndyCar. The veteran sports car team dipped its toes in the IndyCar waters in 2017 with a one-off entry at Indy, and gradually moved towards going full-time in 2020. It added a second car on a part-time schedule in 2021 – winning on its debut with Castroneves – and grew to two full-time entries in 2022.

Fielding three cars this May is a first for Shank’s outfit, and he even reunited Castroneves for the one-off by pulling his Indy-winning chief mechanic Matt Swan back from his regular position as shop manager for the team. Shank made the same move with Swan in 2021, which worked to great effect, and so far, the potential pitfalls of expanding to three cars at Indy have been avoided.

“You add a third car – and it’s the first time we’ve ever run three – it can get into a death spiral, right?” Shank added. “With this group, and the great people at HRC [Honda], and the people we have like Matt Swan running that thing, pulling him out of moth balls again, it’s been really refreshing and really awe inspiring, to be honest with you.

“But we’re only talking qualifying. We’ve got to go and execute in the race here in a couple of days and put all the work that everyone’s done to good use.”

Story originally appeared on Racer