After months of anticipation, the Indianapolis-based Harding Racing finally confirmed what had been expected by announcing their intentions to compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this morning.
Harding Racing has aligned itself with some worthy talent by hiring two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. to be the driving coach for the team’s hotshoe, 24-year-old Gabby Chaves. Additionally, Harding scored well when they poached Brian Barnhart from IndyCar’s race control department to become the team president on November 29.
The team made its debut at the Indianapolis 500 last May, rounding up an impressive ninth-place finish in the “Greatest Spectacle.” In Harding’s two other appearances in 2017 – both on ovals – the group notched an even-better fifth-place result at Texas Motor Speedway before finishing their season off with a fifteenth-place result at Pocono Raceway.
The team is organized by Mike Harding, the owner and CEO of Harding Group, a concrete and asphalt paving company based in Indianapolis. The company has conducted business in the Midwest since 1960 and Pavement Magazine has ranked Harding Group’s asphalt division in the top ten of asphalt paving companies in the United States.
“After the success we had in our three races of 2017, the next logical step was to take the team to a full season.” said Harding. “During the off-season we have continued to build Harding Racing by adding key people to key positions to become a strong contender in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
Most recently, the team moved into the racing shop on Main Street in Speedway, Indiana that was once the home of Ed Carpenter Racing. Their intentions to stay in Indianapolis and bolster a thriving community in Speedway certainly add to the popularity of this upstart team.
Chaves, 24, joins Harding Racing after driving each of the team’s three races last season. The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year has competed in 26 IndyCar events over a three-year career, with a best finish of fifth place at Texas Motor Speedway this year.
This will be Chaves’ second opportunity to drive full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series, as he spent the full 2015 season as a Brian Herta Autosport driver following his 2014 Indy Lights championship campaign.
For Harding Racing competition director and team manager, Larry Curry, the team has been exceptional from its birth.
“For a new team, you figure we started putting these cars together in January,” Curry said. “Built two brand new cars, went down and did a little shakedown test in Texas, and then came to Indianapolis and came home with a ninth-place finish.
“We were all just elated that we had the run that we had.”
As Harding Racing officially confirms their plans, the final known full-time program available to free agent drivers is now Dale Coyne Racing’s second entry.
Harding’s presence on the grid puts the full-time car count at 22 entries counting the vacant DCR No. 19 – with select events featuring expanded line-ups as Juncos Racing and Michael Shank Racing expected to make cameo appearances throughout the year.