Harding Racing team president Brian Barnhart says that the fledgling operation could add a second car at select events this year as a step toward its long-term ambition of a second full-time car.
The team confirmed earlier today that it will make its full-time debut in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year with a Chevrolet-powered entry for Gabby Chaves. Barnhart said that while a full-time teammate for the 24-year-old isn’t yet financially viable, Harding is actively looking to field a second entry at select events, including the Indy 500.
“Ultimately our goal will be to expand to a two-car effort for the entire season,” he said. “[But] we’re not going to add a car or simply do a car for the sake of doing one unless it adds value. With the short sessions, with the limited testing, clearly multi-car teams have got advantages, but we’re not going to throw one out there unless it can be advantageous to Gabby and our primary effort in the first car. It’s got to be somebody that can help with the data, the input and the feedback and make it a value add to the team to do so.
“We think we’ve got some options down the road that we can perhaps expand into, but they don’t have it developed at this point in time. We still have an eye towards potentially a second car at Indianapolis, maybe a couple other races, and if the right situation would present itself, we most definitely would love to expand to a two-car effort full-time.”
While Chaves will have to fly solo for much of the season, Barnhart believes that Harding could find an advantage over fellow newcomers Juncos and Carlin through the experience gained last year, when it expanded upon its maiden event at Indy to appear at Texas and Pocono as well. Juncos also made its IndyCar debut at last year’s Indy 500 but did not run at any other IndyCar events, while Carlin’s appearance at St. Petersburg in March will represent its first IndyCar start.
“I think [that experience] helps a little bit,” he said. “You know, the competition level of IndyCar, as tight as it is, it’s nice to have a few races under your belt and the group working together.
“But it’ll be kind of interesting this year. There’s a little bit of a competition reset with the new universal aero kit coming on board, so everybody has got the same learning curve with that equipment being put onto the race cars moving into 2018. If there’s anything that’s put us a little behind, it’s that we haven’t had a chance to run the new cars yet. We’re doing a private test the first week of February at Sonoma to get a permanent road course test under our belt, kind of get Gabby back in the race car on a road course, and then we’re heading to the Verizon IndyCar Series open test at Phoenix on February 9th and 10th on the short oval.
“With that new aero kit coming on board, it resets the competition level for everybody, and we all find ourselves in the same boat moving into 2018 from that aspect.”