By: Tanner Watkins
February 11, 2019 | 10:00 AM
During today’s festivities at IndyCar Media Day in Austin, Texas, news has emerged that 2018 Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward will in fact not be racing with Harding Steinbrenner Racing this season. TrackSide Online reported the news first.
“The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team supported my decision to seek a new opportunity by releasing me from my contract and allowing me the opportunity to find a new team before the start of the 2019 season,” O’Ward said in a morning statement.
“Now, I am fully focused on finding the right opportunity and how I will use my scholarship from Indy Lights for 2019.”
O’Ward, 19, had been slated to run his first full season in the NTT IndyCar Series with the newly-formed team alongside fellow rookie Colton Herta. While Herta entered the fray as George Michael Steinbrenner IV’s driver in Indy Lights the last two seasons, O’Ward had been an Andretti Autosport driver for 2018’s Lights championship.
When Steinbrenner joined forces with the existing Harding Racing outfit – which has ties to Andretti Autosport – O’Ward was a natural pick as HSR would move to two cars.
In the past few weeks, news emerged that funding was once again limiting the team’s ability to prepare two cars, and this week it was expected that Harding Steinbrenner Racing would be running just one car at the Circuit of the
O’Ward still possesses a $1 million scholarship earned by winning the Indy Lights championship next season, and he can take that funding to the next team he joins. Unfortunately for the teenager, all full-time rides have been secured and there are only partial season opportunities on the table.
It is expected that whichever deal O’Ward can secure in the future will include the Indianapolis 500 in May.
O’Ward impressed in his IndyCar Series debut in Sonoma last September, starting 5th before finishing 9th for Harding Racing. In the same race, his teammate Colton Herta started 19th and finished 20th, though it is believed that O’Ward was actually in an Andretti Autosport-loaned chassis while Herta’s car was prepared solely by Harding Racing.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.