INDIANAPOLIS – Newly formed Harding Steinbrenner Racing announced on Thursday a new partnership with Honda Performance Development for the 2019 INDYCAR season. It was widely speculated at first that the team would remain with Chevrolet power for a third straight year but back when the announcement came that Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta would bring Steinbrenner Racing to the organization for 2019, Al Unser Jr. said that they still haven’t made a decision on which engine that they’d use.
We now know that Honda is the engine of choice.
“First of all, Harding Steinbrenner Racing is very appreciative of our relationship with Chevrolet in 2017 and 2018,” said team president Brian Barnhart. “However, our direction as a race team closely aligns with Honda for the near future. Therefore, we will be making a change to Honda and Honda Performance Development engines. We’re excited about their emphasis on the development of young talent and with our announcement of Colton Herta and Patricio O’Ward joining our team next year, it’s a natural fit for Harding Steinbrenner Racing and Honda to align in 2019.”
The Indianapolis-based team, led by Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner IV, launched in September at the conclusion of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The team will field two full-time IndyCar Series entrants with 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, Honda-powered V-6 engines.
“We are delighted to have Harding Steinbrenner Racing join Honda’s IndyCar Series effort for 2019.,” said Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development. “At Honda Performance Development, we are always looking to the future, as seen with our development series: quarter midgets, karting, Formula F, US F4 and F3 Americas. We are excited to welcome a team with enthusiastic ownership that also believes developing drivers solidifies our lineup today, and into the future. With a pair of young North American drivers, Harding Steinbrenner Racing strengthens our overall racing effort and represents the future of our sport. We warmly welcome the team to the HPD family and look forward to working with them this season.”
Harding Racing competed under the Chevrolet banner beginning with its fruition in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 and throughout the entire 2018 IndyCar season, including qualifying for a Firestone Fast Six and a season-best finish of ninth at Sonoma Raceway.
“Thank you to Chevrolet for being a great partner in 2017 and 2018 for Harding Racing,” said Mike Harding. “As we move towards the 2019 IndyCar Series season with two rookie drivers, I’m glad to know Honda is as committed as I am to develop this young talent.”
“I’m excited to move forward as a new owner in the series and to be joining the Honda INDYCAR family,” said George Michael Steinbrenner IV. “Honda has meant a lot to the IndyCar Series for as long as I can remember, and I’m excited to have such a prestigious name in INDYCAR join us for the 2019 season. Over the past few seasons, Honda Performance Development has shown its ability to win races and that’s what we’re here to do as well.”
Honda has played an integral role in the growth and development of IndyCar Series since joining the series in 2003. This year, Honda Performance Development showcased their ability to win by locking the manufacturer’s championship prior to checkered flag at the Sonoma Raceway season finale.
“Chevrolet has been a great partner with Harding Racing,” said Harding Steinbrenner Racing executive consultant Al Unser Jr. “They have been with the team since its start in 2017 and all through 2018. It’s been a wonderful partnership for everyone involved. I’m excited to now have Honda on board to help us develop our two new young drivers, Colton and Patricio. “
The 2018 Freedom 100 winner in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, Herta will pilot the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Dallara Honda entry and 2018 Indy Lights champion O’Ward will pilot the No. 8. They enter their rookie season after starting their IndyCar Series careers in September’s 2018 season finale. The 2019 IndyCar Series begins March 10, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I’m super excited to join Honda,” said Herta. “I grew up and live in Santa Clarita (California), where they build the engines five minutes away from my house. I go cycling with a lot of the guys that work there, so to join the Honda family is really cool. They have a great platform and have proven to be able to win races on all types of circuits. I hope to add wins to my name while working with Honda!”
“I am really excited to be joining the Honda family,” said O’Ward. “I wasn’t in the IndyCar Series this past season (except for the finale), but I got to see a lot of great performances by all the Honda teams. Honda was a big powerhouse within the paddock this year, obviously, they ended up winning the championship. I am very happy to be a part of the team and I’m looking forward to delivering the results that they deserve. I think that we are going to have a strong package for next year and I can’t wait to get started with Honda and Harding Steinbrenner Racing in St. Petersburg.”
So what does this all mean to future Honda plans. Right now, Honda will supply 14 full time engines and potentially up to 16 or 17 in select races outside of the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet meanwhile, will have as of now 10 entries on a full time basis with the potential to grow to more.