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Chaves, Harding impress with top five at Texas

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One of the newest teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series is quickly making a name for itself as a surprise contender.

Harding Racing, owned by Indiana businessman Mike Harding (has a technical partnership with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing and shares its shop), with IndyCar veteran Larry Curry serving as team manager and competition director, had not contested a race prior to this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Yet, with two races now on their resume, Harding Racing’s No. 88 Chevrolet, in the hands of 23-year-old Gabby Chaves, is making its presence felt.

The two races the team has contested, the aforementioned Indy 500 and Saturday’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway, saw a combined 20 caution periods (11 at Indianapolis, nine at Texas) for various incidents, with Saturday’s race in Texas especially filled with carnage.

Yet, in both races, Chaves survived the chaos to not only bring the No. 88 entry home in one piece, but in strong finishing positions. A ninth-place at Indianapolis was buoyed by a fifth-place run at Texas on Saturday night, completing a remarkable opening pair of races for the young outfit.

Chaves detailed after Texas that the reasons behind their success are actually quite simple: they’ve had solid preparation and have stayed out of trouble.

“We did what we had to do. We kept our nose clean. We had a solid car. I think before the accidents, we were inside the top 12. We had great Chevy power until the end, and just made the passes when we had to. Just really proud of the team effort,” Chaves said of Saturday night’s result.

Though the team is searching for sponsors and partners to secure a planned full-season effort in 2018, their third and final scheduled race of 2017 will be the ABC Supply 500 (August 20, NBCSN) at Pocono.

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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.