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Gabby Chaves’ Indy 500 ride confirmed with Harding Racing

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Gabby Chaves will make his third Indianapolis 500 start, having been confirmed in a new Harding Group with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry under the Harding Racing banner.

The 2014 Indy Lights champion overachieved massively in his first full season of IndyCar in 2015, winning both Indianapolis 500 and series rookie-of-the-year honors with Bryan Herta Autosport. But BHA’s financial struggles over the subsequent offseason left Chaves stranded through no fault of his own, and opened the door for Alexander Rossi to enter as part of the subsequent BHA-Andretti Autosport partnership formed.

Chaves drove a partial 2016 season with Dale Coyne Racing and had been rumored for a couple months to be part of this year’s 2017 race, with formal confirmation coming on Monday. With Zach Veach and Jack Harvey announced over the weekend, Chaves today and at least one more announcement due to arrive later this week, the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is nearing the 33-car threshold.

DRR will field a single-car entry for Sage Karam, Chaves’ old Indy Lights teammate in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, to keep the youth movement going.

From the release:

The Harding Group has been an instrumental partner with Indianapolis Motor Speedway in paving projects and client hospitality. For the first time this May, the company will field a car in the Indianapolis 500 with the formation of Harding Racing announced today.

Mike Harding – owner and president of Harding Group, the Indianapolis-based concrete and asphalt paving company started by his father, Fred, in 1960 – is the race team’s owner. Larry Curry, a fixture running Indy car racing programs for years, is the team manager and competition director. The team plans to attend Wednesday’s open test at Texas Motor Speedway for Chaves to complete an oval refresher test and turn valuable practice laps for the first time in Chevrolet equipment.

“I’m excited to be working with car owner Mike Harding on forming his new Indy car team and we are very lucky to have driver Gabby Chaves, along with Chevrolet,” Curry said. “We have assembled a great team and are looking forward to our shakedown test in Texas on Wednesday.”

Chaves will also benefit from the experience of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who is serving as the team’s driving instructor. Matt Curry, Larry’s son who worked last season for AJ Foyt Racing and was an engineer on Tony Kanaan’s Indy 500-winning effort in 2013 with KV Racing Technology, will be the lead engineer.

“I have complete faith and confidence that our engine partner Chevy will give us the best package and support to give our Harding Racing machine a chance to challenge for the win,” Chaves said. “I’ve had good races at IMS, although the result has never come together. But I think this is the year that I really have to put it together to get the result. That’s my main focus, and I definitely think I’m going to have one of the best programs out there among those focused on Indy only.

“Again, I’m just extremely happy and grateful for the opportunity I have, and I can’t wait to get the month started.”

2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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