Verizon IndyCar Series race director Brian Barnhart has left his position with the championship to become the president of Harding Racing. The team, that made its partial series debut in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series, will expand to a full-time entry for 2018, with Barnhart taking the helm of the new team.
“I’m very excited about getting back on the team side and competitive side of things again,” said Barnhart, “It’s certainly one of the components that factored in heavily in making the decision.
“I’ve been with IndyCar for 23-plus years, obviously a huge part of my life, and that makes the decision extremely difficult to make because of the opportunities that have been afforded to me by the Hulman-George family, IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They’re an incredibly loyal and supportive group of people in the family and I feel like a part of the family.”
Barnhart previously worked with teams such as Penkse, Gales and Patrick Racing in the eighties and nineties. During this time, he held several positions such as pit-crew member and chief mechanic. Shortly after, he joined the organising body of the sport during the early stages of the Indy Racing League in 1997. He was removed from his role as race director following the 2011 IndyCar season due to a number of controversies that took place during his time in the role, but he returned in 2015 as part of a panel of officiators. Now, he steps back into the competition side of the sport:
“We are thrilled to have Brian join Harding Racing,” said team owner Mike Harding. “Brian’s years of experience on both the IndyCar competition side and the operations side makes him an invaluable resource within the league.
“We have the legendary Al Unser Jr, an incredibly talented young driver in Gabby Chaves, a hand-picked winning crew led by team manager Larry Curry, and now Brian. He is the missing piece that will take Harding Racing to victory lane.”
Harding Racing will retain Gabby Chaves as the driver of the #88 Chevrolet for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar series. The team made their debut in last year’s Indianapolis 500, where Chaves took ninth place. The next outing for the squad was at the Rainguard Water Sealers 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, where Chaves drove the #88 to a top-five finish. Their final outing at Pocono later in the season earned them a fifteenth place finish.
The team will be hoping that their decent oval performance carries over to the road and street courses. Harding Racing and Gabby Chaves will race in all seventeen races of the 2018 season, starting with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 11.