Verizon IndyCar Series team Harding Racing has confirmed today that they will participate full-time in 2018. Having made their series debut last year on a part-time schedule, the team will graduate to a full-time entry for this year, retaining Columbian driver Gabby Chaves for all rounds of the championship.
Harding Racing has made a number of changes during the off-season that have enabled them to move from part-time to full-time. One of the key changes was the signing of former IndyCar Series Director Brian Barnhart as the team’s new president. Barnhart welcomed today’s news, calling the announcement “A feel-good thing.”
“It erases any kind of doubt or question mark,” Barnhart said. “You hear a lot of people make plans about trying to expand or do more but too often they don’t come to fruition. In this case, it feels great to have Mike Harding make that commitment to take Harding Racing and be a part of the Harding Group and become a full-season entrant in INDYCAR is definitely a feel-good thing.
“To make that commitment and to have signed full-season engine leases with Chevrolet, you’re all in at that point in time. You’ve got the full-season tire supplement with Firestone executed. It’s a heck of a commitment and dedication on his part and it’s something the team feeds off of. It gives the team confidence, knowing they’ve got a good position to take this team into a competitive environment for the full season and do the best they can to make this year as competitive as possible.”
Harding Racing made their IndyCar series debut in last year’s Indianapolis 500. The team, with Chaves at the wheel, managed to secure a top ten finish on debut; a great feat for such a new team in such a huge event. The team would return to the track for two more events later in the season, scoring a fantastic fifth place at Texas Motor Speedway and fifteenth place at Pocono Raceway.
Two top tens in the team’s first three starts may seem like a good omen, but Barnhart is remaining cautious with his expectations ahead of his team’s first full-time foray in the sport:
“We need to manage our expectations,” Barnhart said. “Even though there’s a reset with aero kits for everybody, we still have a steeper hill to climb than they do just for the fact that we don’t have near as deep a database as they do with racing in general and the tracks. We’re going to be eager to do as well as we can, recognizing the depth of competition and respectful of the quality of teams in the series and hope to represent Mike Harding and Harding Racing as best we can.”
Remaining with the team will be twenty-four-year-old Columbian Gabby Chaves, who will compete in his first full-time IndyCar schedule since his rookie season with Bryan Herta Autosport back in 2015:
“I’m very excited to be back in it full time,” said Chaves following today’s announcement, “It’s a bit of a process trying to mentally prepare for what I know is going to be a very trying and learning year, but I’m very excited to see what we can do.
“Having a few more races experience working with different teams, I’ve been able to gather a lot of information on how teams do things that worked better than other teams, and I try to relay that information now to Harding Racing. When I raced full time before, I didn’t have a teammate or data to go off of. Having had the opportunity to test with Schmidt alongside (James) Hinchcliffe and drive alongside Conor (Daly at Coyne) and a lot of other guys and go back and forth on data, I’m able to see the places that I can get a little bit more speed and the places where I can improve. I can bring all of that information that I’ve gathered and really apply it to my fullest potential going full time.”
Harding Racing and Gabby Chaves’ seasons will begin with pre-season testing during the next two months; where both parties will prepare in earnest for perhaps their most important year of racing yet. Harding Racing’s first full-time season will start with the Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 11.