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IndyCar: Harding Racing 2018 Review

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Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, MotorSportsTalk will review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also taking a look ahead to 2019. We previously featured Juncos Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and Carlin Racing. We continue with Harding Racing (now called Harding Steinbrenner Racing).

The 2018 season was Harding Racing’s second in the IndyCar Series – they contested three races in 2017 – but their first full-season effort.

They began the year with Gabby Chaves, brought in Conor Daly for three races, brought Chaves back for two races, and then ended the year with Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta.

A somewhat tumultuous season ended on a high note, though, with O’Ward qualifying fifth and finishing ninth at Sonoma Raceway. What’s more, the revamped team, now called Harding Steinbrenner Racing, with support from Andretti Autosport, heads into 2019 with much better prospects and with a pair of young hot shots in O’Ward and Herta as their drivers.

One of the newest teams in racing – it literally did not exist prior to 2017 –  could be in for a big year in 2019.

Gabby Chaves

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Team: Harding Racing
Years in IndyCar: 4
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums
2018 final standing: 21st
2018 final stats: 13 starts; 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives; 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 13th (Portland)

SEASON WRAPUP: Gabby Chaves remains a top young prospect, though he continues to suffer from a simple lack of breaks. Chaves had finishes of ninth and fifth in two of his three starts with Harding in 2017, and entered 2018 hoping to build on that in the team’s first full season.

Yet, it was tough sledding for the single-car effort, and the combination did not score a top 10 in any of their 13 starts together. Ahead of Toronto, the team opted to evaluate driver options ahead of 2019 and pulled Chaves out of the cockpit, though he remained present within the team.

He started two more races, at Gateway Motorsports Park and Portland International Raceway, before yielding to O’Ward and Herta for Sonoma.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Even though O’Ward and Herta are the team’s drivers for next year, Chaves is still under contract with Harding. Although he certainly deserves a spot on the grid, where he lands at this point is completely up in the air.

Quote (following Portland, where he finished 13th): “We had a clean race through the start and I managed to pick up a bunch of positions, running inside the top 10 for a good part of the day. We struggled a bit on the black (Firestone primary) tires, so we lost a few positions on track when we were running our stint. We still managed to be in a good contention for a top-10 finish. On the last restart, I had a good run on TK (Tony Kanaan), he just didn’t give me any room and I ended up in the grass while trying to defend the next position. After that, I had to give up that position, as well. We have been improving the car all weekend and all year, so although 13th is not fantastic, it shows progression, which is good.”

 

Conor Daly

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Team: Harding Racing
Years in IndyCar: 5
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 1 podium
2018 final standing: 29th
2018 final stats: 4 starts (**3 with Harding, 1 with Dale Coyne/Thom Burns Racing); 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives; 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 13th (Toronto)

SEASON WRAPUP: Conor Daly’s 2018 season became busier than anticipated during the summer when Harding drafted him in for a stretch of three races between Toronto, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Pocono Raceway.

Jumping in mid-season is a tall task, but Daly held as good of an account for himself as possible, bringing the car home in all three races and helping the team improve.

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019: Daly is back in a familiar place ahead of 2019: looking for sponsorship to keep his career going. Like Chaves, Daly deserves a place on the grid, but whether or not that happens will likely come down to funding.

QUOTE (following Pocono, where he finished 15th): “It was obviously a tough day for us. We had to go into the race with almost no track time, so it was a big guess. At every stop, we put in a lot of front wing. We just kept trying to adjust, but still just struggled with the front of the car. I think by ourselves our pace was good, and we were maintaining a decent spot for where we were on track. I had one chance to pass someone for position and went for it with Ed, but I had no front grip at all and then clipped it. It’s a shame. You hate to end your day like that, thankfully the car wasn’t badly damaged, just small stuff. I would love another shot at it because I think there are some positives to our car and some positives to what we have, I just don’t think we had enough time to evaluate everything.”

 

Patricio O’Ward

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Team: Harding Racing
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums, 1 top five, 1 top 10
2018 final standing: 31st
2018 final stats: 1 start, 1 top 5, 1 top 10
2018 best race finish: 9th (Sonoma)

SEASON WRAPUP: The 2018 Indy Lights champion served notice at Sonoma Raceway that he means business. O’Ward qualified fifth and finished ninth in his IndyCar debut, and managed to be a shining star on a weekend in which the championship was decided. That he was able to garner such fanfare on a championship-deciding weekend says all you need to know about his potential impact.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: O’Ward will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet for Harding Steinbrenner Racing and will look to repeat performances like the one he had at Sonoma.

QUOTE (after Sonoma, where he finished ninth): “It was a really great weekend, we learned a lot. We qualified the car fifth and we ended the race ninth. As a driver, you want to stay in your qualifying position or get better. But I think for a first try, especially with a super long race with three or four pit stops that was a job well done. I’m really satisfied, and I just want to get better for next year.”

 

Colton Herta

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Team: Harding Racing
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career wins and podiums: 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
2018 final standing: 37th
2018 final stats: 1 start, 0 tops 5s, 0 top 10s
2018 best race finish: 20th (Sonoma)

SEASON WRAPUP: Colton Herta’s lone start at Sonoma did not garner the same fanfare as that of his teammate O’Ward. However, Herta’s effort was no less valuable as he gained great experience in how an IndyCar race weekend operates. The 2018 Indy Lights runnerup, and 2018 Freedom 100 winner, is a bright young prospect and looks to have a long career ahead of him.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Herta will be O’Ward’s teammate, piloting the No. 88 Chevrolet for the Harding Steinbrenner outfit.

QUOTE (following Sonoma, where he finished 20th): This weekend was a good experience. I’m not too happy with the result, but I’m happy with how my debut went and the pace that I showed. There are sure some things that I can work on going into the offseason. I had an amazing time. Thank you to Harding Racing, Mike Harding, Team Chevy and Firestone. Can’t wait to see if we can do it again in St. Pete.”

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Dean Wilson out for rest of Supercross season

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“Such a massive gut punch on Saturday,” Dean Wilson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye.”

With that post, Wilson announced that he will be out for the remainder of the Supercross season, which includes races at East Rutherford, N.J. and Las Vegas, Nev. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a shoulder injury. He also sustained damage to his kidney in a Lap 8 accident while he was running in the top 10.

Wilson’s injuries will not require surgery.

Wilson’s season began with a lot of promise. Earning the holeshot in the season-opening race at Anaheim, Wilson led for a time before narrowly missing the podium in fourth.

Two weeks later, Wilson finished fifth overall in the Triple Crown event of Anaheim II. Those are his only top-fives of the season.

“The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year,” Wilson continued.

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Such a massive gut punch on Saturday. Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye. Started off Denver topping free practice then went on to qualify P1 in qualifier 1. Qualifier 2 didn’t get the cleanest laps but ended with a 4th. On to the main event I was running around 7th on lap 7 moving forward and as I came around for the rhythm section I tripled in and something freak happened causing the bike to nose dive after I tripled in and pile driving me into the ground. The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year. It’s tough just hoping to have a ride each year. 2nd part is people saying “wilson’s hurt again, big surprise there” when it was something that wasn’t my fault. It’s a tough pill To swallow.. I injured my shoulder and got a contusion on my kidneys. Got MRI and good news is I dodged a bullet on my shoulder and I am just going to give it a few weeks of rest and therapy and see where we are at. Huge disappointment to end my SX season like this. Thanks to my whole team for everything and everybody checking in on me. I really appreciate it. I will be back.

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Next Race: East Rutherford April. 27, on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Gold

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