Herta after winning the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Photo: IndyCar.

Colton Herta to test for Harding Racing at Portland; could IndyCar ride be in cards?

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While the Verizon IndyCar Series is off until August 19, at least one team – and potentially one future driver in the series – will be busy this week.

Colton Herta, currently second in the Indy Lights series standings, will test this Friday in the No. 88 for Harding Racing at Portland International Raceway.

The story was first reported by TrackSideOnline (TSO).

Harding Racing president Brian Barnhart told The Indianapolis Star the team is looking forward to the upcoming test.

“We are happy to be able to provide Colton his first test in IndyCar,” Barnhart said. “After his success in Indy Lights, his next step is a test in an IndyCar. It is also part of what we have been talking about doing the last month or so with driver evaluations.”

There are several unique aspects of this story:

1) Herta is under contract to Andretti Autosport, where his father, former IndyCar driver Bryan Herta, is a minority partner and co-owner.

2) The younger Herta is essentially being loaned to Harding Racing for this test.

3) Harding Racing began the season with Gabby Chaves as the primary driver of its one-car operation. However, Conor Daly has driven the car in the last two races at Toronto and this past weekend at Mid-Ohio. Harding Racing has not announced who will drive in the next IndyCar race, August 19, at Pocono Raceway, nor the final three races of the season at Gateway Motorsports Park, Portland International Raceway and Sonoma Raceway.

4) Harding Racing is reportedly negotiating a possible tie-in with Andretti Autosport for next season. That could take a variety of shapes, including a partnership of sorts with Harding being a potential satellite team for Andretti Autosport.

5) Harding Racing, in its first season in the IndyCar Series, is a one-car operation, but has designs to expand to two cars based upon funding, perhaps as early as 2019.

6) Harding Racing has four races remaining and could see additional drivers earn essentially tryouts in those remaining races. Racer magazine reported that among names rumored include Herta, Indy Lights points leader Pato O’Ward, Sage Karam and Zachary Claman De Melo.

7) Herta’s test at Portland could be a harbinger of potentially making his first career IndyCar start – perhaps in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. He likely wouldn’t make his debut at Portland (Sept. 1), given he’s in a battle for the Indy Lights championship.

8) Herta drives for Andretti-Steinbrenner in the Indy Lights Series. Team co-owner George Steinbrenner IV told the Indianapolis Star at Mid-Ohio this past weekend that he and Herta were working on a full IndyCar season ride in 2019.

9) That being said, and given the test for Harding Racing this week, Herta and Steinbrenner could become part of Harding if it indeed becomes an Andretti Autosport satellite team.

“When we’ll announce, we’re not sure, but we’re definitely moving fairly quickly in the process of moving to IndyCar,” Steinbrenner told the Indianapolis Star. “I think joining IndyCar in 2019 with Colton Herta is certainly a good possibility.”

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Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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