By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
After much speculation, Harding Racing’s plans for the 2019 IndyCar Series season have now been confirmed.
The Speedway, IN squad will join forces with Steinbrenner Racing to form Harding-Steinbrenner Racing, a two-car team with rookie drivers Patricio (Pato) O’Ward and Colton Herta in car Nos. 8 and 88, respectively.
O’Ward and Herta raced for the Harding team at the recent Grand Prix in Sonoma where O’Ward qualified fifth and finished ninth while Herta qualified 19th and finished 20th.
The team has yet to announce an engine supplier but had a deal with Chevrolet during the 2017 partial season and the 2018 full season campaign. The team also has yet to announce plans for their contracted driver Gabby Chaves who ran 13 races for the team.
O’Ward is the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion with Herta the 2018 Indy Lights runner-up. The duo combined to win 13 of 17 races and 12 of 17 pole positions en route to a 1-2 finish in the standings.
“We are happy to announce that Mike Harding of Harding Racing and George Steinbrenner IV of Steinbrenner Racing will join forces in 2019 to become Harding Steinbrenner Racing,” said team president Brian Barnhart in a team release.
“We will be making the move to a two-car team, fulfilling a goal we stated earlier in the year. We have decided to go all in for the future by hiring two recent stars of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series, Freedom 100 winner and Indy Lights Series runner-up, Colton Herta and reigning Indy Lights Series Champion, Patricio O’Ward. We are thrilled with their performance in the 2018 Indy Lights Series in which they ran 1-2 for Andretti Autosport. We are also exceptionally proud to have recently provided them with them their inaugural IndyCar experience at Sonoma Raceway.”
“If you would have asked me if I was going to be an IndyCar driver last year, I would have told you hopefully, but no,” said O’Ward in a team release. “It’s a chance of a lifetime. I couldn’t be in a better position as of now. I’m really thankful for the opportunity that Harding Racing, Mike Harding and the Steinbrenners are giving me.”
“I am so thrilled to finally announce the plans for next year,” said Herta in a team release. “I know it’s been a long time coming. After having a good time in Sonoma and dipping my feet into IndyCar, it makes me way more enthusiastic than I was before. This is all possible because of Mike Harding and I want to give a big thank you to the Steinbrenners. There is a lot to do, but I’m ready to get my head down and focus forward for the 2019 IndyCar season.”