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.
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.”