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Notes: Meyer Shank To Pair Pagenaud With Helio

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 28 2021

2019 Indinapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud has a new boss. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud will contest the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series schedule alongside four-time/reigning Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves at Meyer Shank Racing, which has morphed into Team Penske of Pataskala.

The 2022 season will mark the first full-time, two-car INDYCAR campaign for Ohio-based MSR since its series debut at the 2017 Indy 500 with Jack Harvey. Pagenaud will drive the No. 60 Honda vacated by Harvey during the 17-race schedule, while Castroneves will wheel the No. 06 Honda.

“Next year will be a big year for MSR and I think we have a very strong lineup of drivers between Simon and Helio,” co-owner Mike Shank said in a team release. “We have built this program every year, growing with our partners and working to have all the ingredients we need to be competitive.

“Our Indianapolis 500 win (with Castroneves) was a big breakthrough, and we are looking forward to having a consistently competitive program that will have the chance to fight for wins and podiums no matter where we go. I think this lineup will help us do that.”

Shank co-owns the team with Jim Meyer, an Indianapolis resident who joined Shank in April 2017 while serving as CEO of SiriusXM. MSR is based in Pataskala, Ohio (approximate population 16,000) located 19 miles east of Columbus.

Pagenaud won the 2016 Series championship and the 2019 Indy 500 in the No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet. The Frenchman closed a winless 2021 season Sunday with a fifth-place finish in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach en route to an eighth-place finish in the final point standings.

“This is such an exciting time in my career,” said Pagenaud, a 37-year-old native of Montmorillon, France. “MSR has proven it is a high-quality organization when they won the Indianapolis 500, and pairing Helio and me together will help our team in 2022 and beyond. I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.”

Helio Castroneves steps into his office at Meyer Shank Racing during qualifying at Indy in May.

Castroneves, 46, won the Indy 500 in 2001, 2002 and 2009 with Team Penske. The popular Brazilian won the 105th edition of the Indy 500 in his debut with MSR on May 30. Castroneves joined A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Castroneves qualified third for Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and posted a lead-lap/20th place result in the 28-car field.

Pagenaud made his IndyCar debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2011. He spent three seasons with Schmidt Hamilton/Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, earning Rookie of the Year in 2012, before joining Roger Penske’s juggernaut for the 2015 season. 

Pagenaud won the 2019 Indy 500 after starting on-pole, becoming the first pole-sitter to win the event since Castroneves in 2009. Pagenaud also scored a third-place podium finish in the 2021 edition of the race won by Castroneves in May. 

Pagenaud has posted 15 wins, 14 poles and 37 podium finishes since making his Series debut. 

Beyond his success in INDYCAR, Pagenaud also has shown strength in sports car competition, collecting podium finishes in the most iconic IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races. Pagenaud finished second in the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona and collected a third-place result in the 2017 and 2020 Petit Le Mans endurance events.

In 2011, Pagenaud teamed with co-drivers Marino Franchitti and David Brabham for a second-place finish in IMSA’s season-opening Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring for Patron Highcroft Racing. Later that season Pagenaud co-drove to a second-place result with Peugeot Sport Total in the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Harvey, a 28-year-old native of Great Britain, is headed to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing according to Racer.com. Harvey finished seventh after starting 25th at Long Beach.

“Today was an emotional day,” Harvey said after his final start for MSR. “I don’t really have many words to be honest. I’ve been with MSR for five years now and I think we have really grown together since our first race back in 2017. To finish the season, and my last race with the team with a seventh-place, I couldn’t be happier. There are a lot of things going through my head right now, but I’m forever grateful for what this team has done for me.” 

Meyer Shank Racing will head into the 2022 season with returning support from primary sponsors AutoNation and SiriusXM as well as continued partnerships with CAP fixtures, Rocky Fork Co. and Roberts Service Group. 

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Dutchman Rinus VeeKay will return to Ed Carpenter Racing for a third consecutive season in 2022. The 21-year-old will continue as full-time driver of ECR’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Rinus VeeKay of The Netherlands enjoys his Carpenter job. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

A third year with the Indianapolis-based team will make VeeKay the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 10-year history.

“I’m very excited to have another season with Ed Carpenter Racing,” VeeKay said in a team release. “We made so much progress this year _ I had my first win in INDYCAR and made many great memories. Next year, we can be better than we’ve ever been.”

VeeKay joined the ranks of IndyCar race-winners on May 15 in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course. One week later, he became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history by qualifying third. 

“We want to be championship contenders, to go for even better results, more frequent wins and podium finishes,” VeeKay said. “The atmosphere at ECR is perfect for that, it feels like a group of friends who are eager to work hard for strong results. I’m excited to continue that in 2022 and not having anything change.”

Raised in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at the age of 8. He transitioned to North America and the Road to Indy in 2017, launching his U.S. career as Rinus VeeKay. His ascent through the RTI ranks included 16 wins and 36 podiums in 48 races. Those statistics propelled him to second place in the 2017 USF2000 standings, the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 title and a runner-up finish in the 2019 Indy Lights championship.

Four years into his career in the United States, VeeKay not only reached the IndyCar Series, he also earned 2020 Rookie of the Year honors.

Team-owner Ed Carpenter added VeeKay to his roster in late 2019. VeeKay made his 29th career start in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. VeeKay qualified 24th and finished 25th in a 28-car field after being sidelined by a mechanical issue 48 laps into the 85-lapper on the 1.968-mile/11-turn street circuit.

“I’m very happy that Rinus will be back behind the wheel for ECR in 2022,” Carpenter said. “Rinus has continued to show that he has the talent and work ethic to be a champion and that’s the goal of our team. We look forward to more success next season.”

In addition to his Rookie of the Year title, VeeKay’s debut season included his first pole position and first podium finish. In 2020, VeeKay recorded the best qualifying result by a teen-ager in Indianapolis 500 history by starting fourth; in 2021, he qualified third and became the youngest front row starter in 500 history at age 20.

“I want to thank Ed Carpenter for giving me the opportunity to drive for another season,” VeeKay said. “Ed was the one that gave me the chance to be able to prove myself in INDYCAR and I’m very grateful to him. Thank you to Tony George, Stuart Reed and the entire team, every single person who makes this possible. I’m the one driving, but there’s a whole team behind me working day and night to give me a good, reliable car.

“I also really appreciate the support of ECR’s partners, including SONAX and Direct Supply, for allowing us to work hard, improve and take a big step forward this offseason.”

ECR has raced exclusively since its inception in 2012 in the IndyCar Series, earning eight wins on various street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR boasts 36 top-fives, 23 of which have been podium finishes. For nine of its 10 Indianapolis 500s, ECR has had at least one car qualify in the first three rows. An ECR Chevrolet has sat on the front row seven of those years, including pole positions by Carpenter in 2013, 2014 and 2018.

ECR will compete with two full-time entries in 2022, the Nos. 20 and No. 21 Chevrolets. Carpenter, 40, will continue as oval-track driver of the No. 20 in his 20th season. The 2022 season will begin on Feb. 27 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was the inaugural recipient of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Media Award (2010). His list of freelance clients has included Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

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Final 2021 NTT IndyCar Series point standings (top-10): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 549; 2, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 511; 3, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 487; 4, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 481; 5, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 455; 6, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 435; 7, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 389; 8, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 383; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 357; 10, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, 332.

2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES SCHEDULE/RACE WINNER

Sunday, April 18 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, April 25 _Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

Saturday, May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Saturday, May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing)

Sunday, May 30 _ The 105th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing)

Saturday, June 12 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, June 13 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Sunday, June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Saturday, Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Will Power, Team Penske)

Saturday, Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (Josef Newgarden, Team Penske)

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, Sept. 19 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 28 2021
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