For a team that only intended to compete in the 101st Indianapolis 500, Harding Racing is exceeding expectations.
After surviving a crash-influenced Rainguard 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, Gabby Chaves escaped with a fifth-place finish. The effort is notable considering the Colombian had to move up from 20th at the start of the 248-lap event and avoid the close quarters‘ action that eliminated all but seven of the 22 starters.
Chaves was not immune from over-aggression on Saturday, as he was ordered by officials to give a position back to Graham Rahal on two occasions late in the event due to avoidable contact. Although things changed late, Chaves and the Harding Racing squad took a more careful approach to its second Verizon IndyCar Series start. Not having competed at the 1.5 mile Texas Motor Speedway before, the team only qualified 20th on Friday outrunning A.J. Foyt Racing teammates Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz.
However, Harding Racing has taken advantage of the consistent and steady approach, missing the major accidents last month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to move from 25th to place a respectable ninth after 500 miles. The plus-16 performance was the biggest improvement that any driver enjoyed in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. On Saturday night at Texas, Chaves gained 15 places from where he began the 600 kilometers, once again the largest advancement.
Despite featuring limited information on the 2017 version of the Dallara DW12, nor on the three circuits, it intends to compete at this season Harding Racing’s personnel are far from novices. 2017 is Gabby Chaves’ third season in IndyCar competition, after an advancement through the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. The 23-year old native of Bogota, Colombia ran the entire 2015 IndyCar circuit with Bryan Herta Autosport, earning two top-ten finishes at Detroit and Texas, whilst also placing 16th in his first Indy 500 start to pick up Rookie of the Race honors.
Chaves lost his ride at Herta in 2016, but still managed six appearances with Dale Coyne Racing, including a season’s best 12th-place result at Detroit. Unable to secure a full-time seat this year, Chaves joined forces with Harding and has already doubled his career top-tens output.
The key to Harding’s early success also points to the presence of Larry Curry, who serves as team manager. With 40 years of IndyCar experience under his belt, Curry has stood atop the pit box for several teams since the current sanctioning body’s debut in 1996, most notably Team Menard. The veteran’s most notable driver success story is Indiana-native Tony Stewart, who won the IndyCar championship in 1997 before moving to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 1999.
Harding Racing plans on making one final start in 2017 at the Pocono 500 on August 20th, before trying to run the full 2018 slate, pending on sponsorship.
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