The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team will dispatch a single car to next week’s NTT IndyCar Series test at Circuit of The Americas. It could portend a larger change in plans for the Mike Harding- and George Steinbrenner-owned operation, who hired 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and runner-up Colton Herta as its two full-time drivers for 2019.
Persistent rumors of a funding shortfall have followed the team throughout the offseason. With Harding and Steinbrenner responsible for securing the necessary sponsorship to run O’Ward and Herta in their Honda-powered entries, the downsized presence for COTA would suggest their sponsorship acquisition efforts are ongoing.
“We are sending one car, and it’s looking good; it’s on the ground now and we’re about to fire it up,” HSR president Brian Barnhart told RACER. “The bad part is, unfortunately, there’s only one car ready at this point and we’ll share it with both drivers.
“The struggles we’ve had has only allowed us to get one car ready at this point. The post-COTA schedule has us stopping at Sebring before St. Pete to do a shakedown with the second car, and the plan is then to roll into St. Pete with both cars and both drivers.”
It’s unclear whether O’Ward, who sent shockwaves through the IndyCar paddock by qualifying fifth and finishing ninth in his first race, will drive for the team at COTA, or at any point in 2019.
“The only thing I can speak to is our intentions, and our intent is to have both kids in the car at COTA,” Barnhart added.
Opening practice for the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg is less than one month away. It gives HSR more time, albeit in a tight window, to try and resolve its short-term budget requirements.
Having crafted the feel-good story of the offseason by bringing O’Ward and Herta into IndyCar through an affiliation with Harding and the family that owns the New York Yankees, the late and unanticipated financial difficulties for at least one of HSR’s entries is a growing concern.
“Things haven’t developed as quickly and successfully as we’d hoped since the partnership was formed, and it’s not for a lack of trying,” Barnhart said. “We have a lot of discussions and a lot of proposals out; it’s a slow-moving process, but we’re still full steam ahead.”