Constructing a New Team (Harding Racing)
Fun fact about this team: every time I travel to Speedway I pass Harding Group on my drive. You can’t miss the icon on the smokestack. Harding is one of two new teams joining the IndyCar series full time in 2018. They just made the announcement mid-January 2018… I thought that announcement happened mid-season in 2017. Seriously though, when they teased the announcement, honestly thought it was going to be another driver. It just felt like this was confirmed back during the 2017 season. I mean – they’ve been promoting Chaves in the off-season. Gabby Chaves will be driving for the team, with hints of a second car if funding and everything falls into place.
Chaves has had a mixed bag of seasons. He was a champion in IndyLights, Rookie of the Year in the 2015 Indy500 and 2015 Rookie of the Year for IndyCar. He’s been shuttled around on teams, driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Dale Coyne, and the stint with Harding last year. I’m cautiously optimistic; Gabby’s kept a steady showing in an unsteady career. Given it has been a mixed bag of teams, that he’s got not only experience of driving, but there a skill acquired from jumping from team to team. I don’t think he’s going to come out of the gate leading the pack, but I think he has a good team around him. President of the racing team, and former IndyCar Head of Race Control, Brian Banhart, provided an excellent quote about how the team is looking at 2018 "[w]e need to manage our expectations. Even though there’s a reset with aero kits for everybody, we still have a steeper hill to climb than they do just for the fact that we don’t have near as deep a database as they do with racing in general and the tracks. We’re going to be eager to do as well as we can, recognizing the depth of competition and respectful of the quality of teams in the series and hope to represent Mike Harding and Harding Racing as best we can.”(1) This is cautious optimism. This is a team leader who isn’t making grandiose statements. I happen to think this is a good approach.
It's not just Barnhart helping this team step forward from part-time to full time. Harding Racing also has Al Unser Jr. as the team's driver coach and consultant. Aside from the legendary name of "Unser", we have a two-time Indy 500 champion (1992 and 1994) providing much-needed insight to a team that doesn't yet have the depth of information as other teams. Aside of course from the Indy 500 wins, Al Unser Jr.'s resume is very robust and he has seen success in all types of racing. This is another good hire by Harding Racing.
With Ed Carpenter Racing moving out of Speedway, and Harding moving into the building – I have a local team to cheer for (who am I kidding I cheer for most anyone), or at least be very excited to watch their growth as a team.
1-(IndyCar.com article - http://www.indycar.com/News/2018/01/01-12-Harding-Racing-fulltime-in-2018)