After the completion of Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix, Harding Racing’s plans for the season finale leaked out. RACER first reported the story but both drivers have since confirmed that Harding will expand to a two-car program for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at the Sonoma Raceway in two weeks.
Gabby Chaves, who made the first 11 starts of the season for the team was sidelined following his 21st place finish on July 8 at Iowa. Despite a best finish of 14th (twice) in those first 11 races, Chaves wasn’t taken out of his seat in terms of performance. After that race, Chaves sat 18th in the points standings and had no shot of winning this year’s title.
So, with the organization wanting to expand to a two-car team on a full time basis for the 2019 season, they thought that was the point of the year to start moving in that direction.
Conor Daly made three starts in the No. 88 Chevrolet before Chaves came back for the last two races. Now, its been confirmed that they’ll unload a second car at Sonoma and both Andretti Autosport Indy Lights drivers of Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta will pilot them.
O’Ward, 19, just swept the weekend at Portland and claimed his first career championship. The Mexican driver made four career starts in the series prior to this season, so to have nine wins and nine poles in his first full time season was impressive.
— Patricio O'Ward (@PatricioOWard) September 2, 2018
Herta, 18, finished second to his teammate in the final standings and had four wins this season and six for his career. The second generation driver finished third in the final standings as a rookie in 2017 and has scored 20 podiums and 25 top five finishes in Indy Lights. He tested for Harding a few weeks ago in Portland.
— Colton Herta (@ColtonHerta) September 2, 2018
By virtue of his championship, O’Ward now has a scholarship for three races and the Indianapolis 500 for 2019. He’s a hot commodity.
Herta, has Steinbrenner Racing’s funding and too is looking to expand into INDYCAR for 2019. Harding figured into both of their plans before the rumors of Fernando Alonso coming over surfaced. Either way, if Andretti is going to be involved, it’s going to be a slippery slope due to Andretti being aligned with Honda and Harding with Chevrolet.