While it hasn’t been a poor start to the 2018 season for freshman full-time entry Harding Racing, the Indianapolis-based team will be searching for a spark when they visit the Lone Star State this weekend.
After eight races in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, Chaves and his No. 88 team are currently 18th in the points ahead of only Carlin full-timers Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton.
Despite the team finishing no worse than 19th this year, their best run is only 14th (twice – at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis) and that has left a little to be desired. Last year, Harding debuted with a 9th place finish at the Indianapolis 500 and followed that up with a top-five in Texas.
At Pocono, the team placed a respectable 15th to cap a strong speedway showing for a fledgling unit.
Predictably, those finishes created slightly unrealistic expectations as the team embarked on their first full season in the series – a completely different beast. What is important to note is Chaves has been running at the conclusion of each race this season while completing 99.4% of all laps thus far.
For a first-year program, that is about all you can ask for.
This weekend the series visits Texas Motor Speedway, a track that has produced some of the most thrilling racing in IndyCar the past few years. While the sanctioning body has made rules modifications that should eliminate the pack racing we are accustomed to, “No Limits, Texas” is still a wild card in the IndyCar deck.
Taking that and last year’s 5th place finish into consideration, Chaves sees this weekend as an opportunity to jump-start the second half of this season.
“Super excited to get back to Texas,” said Chaves. “I always have had good results at this track. This is where we had the first top-five finish for Harding Racing and I can’t wait to get back there.
“Last year, we had a really good race and a competitive car. I think this year we’ll be in a really good position by coming back with a similar baseline. That way we can be competitive all weekend and hopefully get back into a good result and a good groove and rhythm to keep carrying the momentum forward.”
Chaves mentions that this is a track where he has had some success, and he has a point.
In three races at the 1.5-mile oval, the Colombian driver has that best finish of 5th from 2017, but also has a top-10 finish with Bryan Herta Autosport on his record from the 2015 season. Chaves has finished each of the three Texas races he has entered – which isn’t always an easy task – despite not starting any better than 20th in any of the contests.
Harding Racing executed a smooth month of May and was a bit better than their 14th place result at Indianapolis displayed. Look for the upstart outfit to pick up a bit of pace this weekend as Chaves normally performs adequately in hot weather conditions.
If there is one thing you can be sure of entering an unpredictable weekend such as Texas, its death, taxes, and Gabby Chaves finishing the race.
Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.