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Harding Racing keeps expectations modest ahead of 2018 IndyCar season

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Harding Racing entered the Verizon IndyCar Series with a bang during the 2017 season. Entered in three races – the Indianapolis 500, the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, and the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – one of the newest IndyCar operations scored a pair of impressive Top-10 finishes, ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas. They also qualified a solid eighth at Pocono before ultimately finishing 15th.

Building on that early success, the team will now tackle a full-season effort in 2018. However, despite their stout results in their first three races, team president Brian Barnhart explained in a media teleconference that they are keeping their expectations in check entering their first full season in the IndyCar ranks.

“It’s clearly our goal and our intent to be as competitive as we can, but I certainly don’t want to come in and have false expectations because the first thing I would say is I wouldn’t want to have that arrogance from our team standpoint, and I also wouldn’t want to be disrespectful of the level of competition that’s in the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Barnhart said.

“The last several years, multiple, multiple cars have won races, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to the level of talent and competition in there, or we’re going to have to think all of a sudden we’re going to win a bunch of races and compete for the championship. Ultimately that’s our goal, but we also have to manage those expectations and be respectful of the level of competition we’re fighting against. We’re going to do everything we can to give Gabby (driver Gabby Chaves) the best opportunity to be competitive as he can.”

Part of managing those expectations is not expanding the effort too quickly. Running a second entry, either full-time or part-time, is a future goal, but Barnhart revealed that they won’t rush to do so.

“We’re not going to add a car or simply do a car for the sake of doing one unless it adds value,” Barnhart asserted. “With the short sessions, with the limited testing, clearly multi-car teams have got advantages, but we’re not going to throw one out there unless it can be advantageous to Gabby and our primary effort in the first car. It’s got to be somebody that can help with the data, the input and the feedback and make it a value-add to the team to do so.”

Chaves, who drove for Harding in its three-race stint last season, continues as the team’s driver in the full-time effort in the No. 88 Chevrolet, also added that while running one car does seem to be a disadvantage on the surface, other teams have done well with only one full season entry.

“I would say that though certainly it’s probably not ideal, it’s been done in the past with great success, a few years back with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport and Simon Pagenaud and the last few years with Graham Rahal, and they showed that a one-car effort can be just as competitive as a multiple-car team,” Chaves emphasized.

Chaves also added that building on the team’s successes from 2017 will come down to maximizing their development efforts:¬†“I think we’re just going to have to be extra diligent in our work and make sure that everything we do has purpose to it and we’re not just out there running laps just to run laps.”

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Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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