It took two years, but Gabby Chaves’ patience finally paid off Friday.
Chaves has been looking for a full-time IndyCar ride since after the 2015 season with Bryan Herta Autosport (which then merged with Andretti Autosport), a year in which Chaves was named IndyCar Rookie of the Year as well as Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.
Now, after two seasons of a combined 10 IndyCar starts, the 24-year-old Colombian driver is back in a full-time ride with Harding Racing, which is making its first full-time foray in the IndyCar Series.
Chaves is well-known to Harding Racing, having competed in three races for the upstart team, including a career-best, ninth-place finish in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.
In addition to his ninth-place showing at Indianapolis, Chaves finished fifth at Texas and 15th at Pocono in his two other starts for the Harding group.
“I really can’t begin to express how happy and excited I am to get back on track full-time with Harding Racing,” Chaves said in a media release. “We built a really strong team in a very short amount of time in 2017.
“I’m looking forward to building on that and will be excited to see what our new team members will be able to do to take us to the next level. Most of all, I’d like to thank (team owner) Mike Harding for believing in my potential and for giving me this opportunity.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do and believe we can have a lot of success together.”
Hiring Chaves, who will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet, is just the latest in a number of offseason changes at Harding Racing. Their biggest hire was Brian Barnhart, former IndyCar race control boss and VP of competition, to assume team president role at Harding Racing.
“We are building on the success from 2017 and will take it to the next level with enhanced excitement in the upcoming season.” Barnhart said. “Our sole focus is on making Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing the most competitive team possible in our first full season.
“I believe we will be a strong contender team in the talent-fueled Verizon IndyCar Series. … I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish in 2018.”
Another major grab for the organization is hiring two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. as an executive consultant.
“We’re a quiet powerhouse,” Unser said. “This offseason we worked diligently to make sure that Harding Racing will be strong in 2018.
“The team had a fantastic start in 2017, and we are completely focused and prepared for this upcoming season. … I know the team is motivated, passionate and hungry for success this year.”
One full-time ride remains available for the 2018 IndyCar season, with Dale Coyne Racing.