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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.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).