This morning the popular Indianapolis-based Harding Racing announced that the top two finishers in this year’s Indy Lights championship will pilot their cars in a two-car effort at the Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Series champion Patricio O’Ward will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet while championship runner-up Colton Herta will slide into the No. 88 machine, further strengthening the bond between Andretti Autosport and Harding.
The move comes after each driver had an opportunity to test with the team during the summer, with Herta making a Portland cameo back in August and O’Ward cutting his teeth on Wednesday at Sonoma.
“We’re really happy with how Patricio did in the car at Sonoma,” said Brian Barnhart, president of Harding Racing. “Coupling that with the excellent job that Colton did in Portland earlier in August, Harding Racing is really excited about being able to provide their Verizon IndyCar Series race day debuts next week at Sonoma.”
Herta and O’Ward recently completed their season-long duel for the Indy Lights championship, with Pato sweeping both Portland races a week ago and clinching the Lights title. In O’Ward’s championship run he amassed nine victories, nine pole awards, and 13 podium finishes in a dominating 17-race run.
A positive run at Sonoma was not only verification for Harding to make the move, but also a confidence booster for O’Ward ahead of his first IndyCar Series start.
“Really happy how the day ended,” said O’Ward after his first run in an IndyCar at Sonoma. “We were very quick, and the car felt very good. The differences between the Lights and these cars are insanely different. The amount of grip and the amount of power that these cars have is just something different, I’ve never driven something as fast.
“Around Sonoma, the difference in this aero makes the car so much heavier and the braking capabilities of these type of brakes are amazing. They’re very strong. The car is extremely difficult, so I’m going to have to go to the gym. I’m just super happy with how the day ended and I honestly could not have imagined the car being better. It is a monster. It is a beast. I’m really looking forward to the race weekend, I know we’re going to be pretty strong.”
Herta has spent two full seasons in Indy Lights and compiled six wins, 10 pole positions, and 20 podium finishes over 33 contests. Poised for an IndyCar Series promotion for 2019, Herta knows this is a crucial first step.
“I’m super happy to get my start in IndyCar next weekend for the Sonoma Grand Prix,” said Herta. “Mike Harding and Brian Barnhart have been very supportive in this effort and I can’t think of a better place to get my start in IndyCar. There are too many people to thank for this opportunity, but I’m very thankful for Harding Racing.”
The 2018 Grand Prix of Sonoma will be the final race of the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, going green on Sunday, September 16 at 3:40 PM ET on NBCSN.
Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.