Andretti Autosport Indy Lights driver Colton Herta will make his Verizon IndyCar Series testing debut with the Harding Racing later this week at Portland International Raceway.
The second-generation driver, who sits second in the Lights championship, will climb inside the No. 88 Chevy recently occupied by Gabby Chaves and Conor Daly to gain experience ahead of an anticipated full-season IndyCar program in 2019.
“We’ve always viewed at what Michael Andretti has done with his Mazda Road To Indy teams, all the way down to the USF2000 series, as the model for how an IndyCar team should support young drivers,” team president Brian Barnhart told RACER.
“The next logical step is for Colton to test, and we’re happy to provide that opportunity for him. That’s all it is at the moment. We’re fully aware Colton’s under contract to Andretti, so we’re thankful to go test with him, to do another driver evaluation, and we hope to learn more as we work on improving Harding Racing.”
The Portland test, which is tipped to be run in part by Andretti’s personnel, could also involve some level of technology transfer to aid the Harding team. It was recently revealed the team has been using dampers from the previous generation of Dallara IndyCar, and despite attempts to purchase brand-new units, the delivery time could extend beyond the Sonoma season finale, which could make gaining access to dampers from Andretti a high priority.
The test could also serve as a first look at how the two teams might collaborate in 2019 in order for Andretti to increase its car count through satellite programs run by Harding.
Looking at Harding’s short-term considerations, the team has yet to announce its drivers for the four races left to run, and could have a number of options to consider for Pocono, Gateway, Portland, and Sonoma.
Chaves, who was asked to step aside for Daly starting at Toronto, is still under contract. Daly, who has shown well in his two starts for the team, is available for all but the August 25 Gateway round due to NASCAR Xfinity obligations with Roush Fenway Racing at Road America. Herta and Lights championship points leader Pato O’Ward could be in the frame, and occasional IndyCar driver Sage Karam is said to have expressed interest in driving for the team.
Zachary Claman De Melo, whose part-time rookie campaign with Dale Coyne Racing concluded after Toronto, is believed to have met with the team and ranks as another who could drive the No. 88 Chevy before the checkered flag waves over the season on September 16.