Harding Racing has confirmed its long-held pans to become a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series entrant with Gabby Chaves piloting the No. 88 Chevy.
The transition follows Harding’s impressive debut in 2017 where Chaves contested the Indy 500, Texas and Pocono, earning ninth at Indianapolis and a strong fifth at the Fort Worth oval.
With Harding, Chaves has earned a rare opportunity to make a full return to IndyCar. The 2014 Indy Lights champion graduated to the big series with Bryan Herta Autosport in 2015, promptly secured Rookie of the Year honors, but lost his seat when BHA consolidated with Andretti Autosport the following year.
A part-time opportunity with Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 maintained the young Colombian’s reputation as a rising talent, and by 2017, the upstart Harding operation drew on his experience to make a splash during its three oval outings.
“For me, the path and the road to get back to full-time IndyCar racing was very trying and challenging; sometimes to the point where it looked like it wasn’t working out,” Chaves told RACER. “But I got a blessing here with Harding last year, we put on a pretty good show with a competitive package to show that I belong here, and this is where I want to be. We did enough to extend my contract and now we can build for the future together.”
Since Pocono, former IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart has been hired to oversee the Harding operation, and with the overall commitment to the series by the Indiana-based businessman, the team is primed to start the season with solid momentum behind the program.
“After the success we had in our three races of 2017, the next logical step was to take the team to a full season,” Harding said. “During the off-season we have continued to build Harding Racing by adding key people to key positions to become a strong contender in the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
Barnhart is confident the team will make its presence felt this year.
“We are building on the success from 2017 and will take it to the next level with enhanced excitement in the upcoming season,” he said. “Our sole focus is on making Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing the most competitive team possible in our first full season. I believe we will be a strong contender team in the talent-fueled Verizon IndyCar Series. The credit goes to Mike Harding, Tyler Smith, Larry Curry and the crew for a job well done this past year and I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish in 2018.”
Adding a second car alongside Chaves looked like a possibility late in 2017, but it’s believed those conversations have slowed.