Harding Steinbrenner Racing president Brian Barnhart says no decision has been made on which engine manufacturer will power Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and his teammate Colton Herta.
Having relied on Chevy support during its part-time debut in 2017 and again last season during a full-time campaign, it’s no secret Harding’s recent deal to serve as an extension of the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport team could result in every Andretti-related entry being aligned with the same brand.
“Whoever it ends up being, an engine deal needs to get finalized,” Barnhart told RACER. “Our biggest challenge for any potential change, and there’s pros and cons with both options, is we’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Chevy and were not looking to make a change, however, in our new partnership with Andretti, some things would be made easier if we had a shared engine partner.
“But then again, Chevy has been so good to us and made working with them so easy. Like I said, there’s pros and cons, but really, it’s more pros to weigh.”
If it adds the two HSR entries to its stable, Honda Performance Development would take on its 13th and 14th full-time leases for the season, and with the 10-race Meyer Shank Racing entry for Jack Harvey, its car count would reach 15 at the majority of rounds outside the Indy 500. For the 500’s field of 33, HPD could be facing a supply of 20-21 entries if O’Ward and Herta are brought into the fold.
“That then leads into the issues of availability and quantities Honda could support, both physically with motors and practically with support engineers,” Barnhart countered. “They’re pretty maxed out as it is. Flat honestly, I don’t think we’re close to announcing anything.”
While an eventual shift to HPD would not come as a surprise, unexpected and persistent rumors of a funding shortfall for the new Harding Steinbrenner program continue to make the rounds.
Although Barnhart declined to comment on the subject, multiple sources have told RACER the Mike Harding- and George Steinbrenner IV-owned venture has not, at this stage of the off-season, reached its minimum funding targets for 2019.
Time is on the team’s side over the next six weeks, but once its rivals commence pre-season testing in January, HSR’s marketing forces will want to have a fair portion of the budget in hand to ensure the Nos. 8 and 88 entries are on track and ready to go well before the March 10 season opener at St. Petersburg.
With a mix of dynamic speed and personality found within its rookies, Mexico’s O’Ward and Herta, a second-generation American IndyCar driver, represent a strong future for the series alongside its other young talents. Well ahead of any other priorities, signing sponsors and inking B2B deals to secure HSR’s upcoming season — and its participation into the next decade — will dominate its efforts until the budgetary requirements are met.