INDIANAPOLIS – A race winner for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network) that no one is talking about is Gabby Chaves. The 23-year old Verizon IndyCar Series driver has three career top 10’s, all three have occurred on superspeedways. Well, with another superspeeday coming up this weekend at the Pocono Raceway, I can make a strong case for a fourth top 10 effort for the young driver.
Chaves, finished 10th at Texas in 2015. That was his first and only top 10 prior to this season. This year, Chaves signed on with a new team in Harding Racing. Results like the ones that he’s had weren’t expected to come this soon. After all, the team hasn’t been in the series at all prior to the Indianapolis 500.
Chaves finished ninth at Indy.
Then, in the teams’ second race together at Texas back in June, Chaves brought his No. 88 Chevrolet home fifth. Now, in their third race, another superspeedway, will they win?
The law of trends says yes.
From ninth to improving four spots to fifth in the first two races. If he improves four more spots from fifth, he will be the one in victory lane at the Tricky Triangle on Sunday afternoon.
Also factor in this, Chaves has one career Verizon IndyCar Series start at Pocono, that came back in 2015. In that race, Chaves led 31 laps and was in the hunt to win in the end before his engine expired relegating him to an 11th place result. If not for that engine, he likely would have won. Then, in two career Indy Lights starts at Pocono, Chaves has finishes of third and first respectively.
Need I say anymore?
Harding Racing, Gabby Chaves to return to IndyCar series at Texas
Harding Racing, Gabby Chaves to return to IndyCar series at Texas
INDIANAPOLIS – After its sterling debut at the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, Harding Racing is returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series for this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Gabby Chaves, who finished ninth at the 500, will again be in the cockpit of Harding Racing’s No. 88 Chevrolet.
“We went into Indy with the mentality that if we got out there clean, we would try to run Texas and Pocono,” said team manager and competition director Larry Curry. “And we definitely got out of there clean.
“We were just all elated that we had the run that we had. For a new team, you figure we started putting these cars together in January. Built two brand new cars, went down and did a little shakedown test in Texas and then came to Indy and came home with a ninth-place finish.”
The plan for Harding Racing going forward, Curry said, is to join the IndyCar series full time beginning next season with Chaves behind the wheel. Chaves is currently under a two-year contract agreement with Harding Racing, which is owned by Mike Harding, who runs an Indianapolis-based concrete and asphalt paving company.
Curry said that backing up a stellar debut at Indy is priority No. 1 for Chaves and Harding Racing heading to Texas. It will be challenging, Curry concedes, with far less practice time than the team had to prepare for the 500, but he's not letting that hinder expectations.
“We're keeping our goals high, so we're going down to Texas and we definitely want to back up our top-10 finish at Indy with another top-10 run," Curry said. "If we do that, for a new team going to the first two races and end up with top 10s in both of them, I think we'd feel pretty good about it."
Ninth-Place Indy 500 Finish Leaves Chaves Smiling
Harding Racing impresses as top rookie team
One rookie team raced to an impressive top-10 debut and the other two are looking forward to do-overs at next year's Indy 500. Mike Harding's one-car team for Gabby Chaves earned the honors for best rookie team on Sunday as the young Colombian-American driver wheeled the No. 88 Chevy to a superb ninth-place finish.
"I think we did our job," the 2014 Indy Lights champion said. "We took the race one lap at a time. We let the track and the conditions come to us and we dialed in the car every stop. We had a heck of a stint there. I think we were one of the only cars being able to make moves out there and got into a solid top 10 for our first go as a team."
With Harding Racing set to return later this year at Texas in June and Pocono in August, Chaves and the Larry Curry-led team will have more opportunities to shine as they prepare for a possible full-time effort in 2018.
Michael Shank spent decades trying to reach the Indy 500, and after watching his driver Jack Harvey suffer a crash in practice from a mechanical issue and lose a motor as well due to something being ingested by his Honda powerplant, watching Harvey get knocked out of the race through no fault of his own was a tough pill to swallow.
"I am just really thankful and proud of everyone on our team. We learned a lot and if we do make it back to the Indianapolis 500 again we have some things that we would do different to improve the process. We can definitely be stronger here, and we will see where our future takes us."
Ricardo Juncos put together an ambitious two-car program for Juncos Racing's IndyCar debut, and while the Chevy-powered cars were turned out in immaculate form, the one ingredient they needed to succeed – ample speed – proved to be elusive all month.
"We have finished what has been a huge effort from so many people," he said. "We brought both cars home in 15th (Sebastian Saavedra) and 18th (Spencer Pigot) place. It was a very tough race; the cars were not as good as they should have been and Spencer's car was really not good, so I am very happy for him because he was so professional to bring it home.
"Sebastian did a good job to finish a team-high 15th. This is the beginning of the future for us, so I have to thank everybody for an amazing job."
Like Harding, the Juncos team could appear at more races late in the year, with Pocono as the most likely candidate. Shank's future in IndyCar is less certain after leasing a car for the month, but the veteran IMSA sports car team owner has expressed an interest in continuing if the budget can be acquired.
Ninth Place Finish for Gabby Chaves at Indianapolis 500
Gabby Chaves Qualifies 25th for 101st Running of Indianapolis 500
Chaves, Harding Racing Taking Methodical Approach
Indianapolis, IN – May 21st, 2017 - From journeyman to centerpiece, Gabby Chaves has found a home at Harding Racing.
The 2014 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion and 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year when he raced full time with Bryan Herta Autosport, Chaves has endured a tough path since. But he sees this as the perfect opportunity for not only himself, but INDYCAR’s newest team.
“I’ve had my ups and downs, right?” said Chaves, 23. “I’ve won championships, I’ve won plenty of races. I’ve also been out of a car and out of a ride. It’s just finding the motivation to go through the tough times, enjoying and doing the best we can through the good times.
“Right now, I’m facing a fantastic opportunity to really kick-start my career up again and really establish myself as an Indy car driver – which is all I want to be. I’m here, I’ve got a future with these guys. They’ve got a future in the series. I’m just really happy that we’re getting the work done.
“Obviously, we know the challenges that face us as a new team, but we’re prepared to face them and put in all the effort and all the work necessary to become a really competitive team.”
Team owner Mike Harding has been a fixture around Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 17 years. His construction company, Harding Group, was founded in 1960 and has performed asphalt and concrete work at IMS. Harding is an official track sponsor and hosts nearly 4,000 customers and guests on Indianapolis 500 race weekend.
Harding’s race team is set to officially debut in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil after Chaves qualified 25th today with a four-lap run of 226.921 mph in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
The team also has plans to run the other superspeedway ovals on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule at Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, with a goal of being a full-season entry in 2018. Harding and team manager/race strategist Larry Curry have been methodical in putting the pieces together, with the long-term goal in mind.
That suits Chaves just fine. After driving the full season in 2015, he competed in just seven races last year with Dale Coyne Racing. The search has been ongoing for a full-time return and Chaves hopes it can be with Harding Racing.
“It’s been a process,” Chaves said. “It started with an idea last year between Mike and Larry Curry during the 500 here. It came to life, probably the first week of January, and ever since then it’s been full steam ahead, getting the team together and preparing so that we can start off on the right foot. I think we’ve got plenty more to improve on and work on, but I think we’ve done exactly what we intended to do.”
The team boasts more than 100 combined years of experience and has an added boost in team consultant and driver coach, Al Unser Jr., the two-time Indy 500 champion. Unser (shown above with Chaves) acknowledges the differences in racing from his time to now, but praised Chaves for understands what it takes to run well.
“It’s quite simple,” said Unser. “The fundamentals of the Indy 500 are the same and they’ve been the same from the ‘50s and ‘60s. You first have to finish to finish first. The pit stops have to be made correctly.
“The fundamentals are the same. The formula of the way they’re driving these cars has changed immensely. We never ran wide open from full tanks to empty tanks every stop, and that’s what they do out there. They generally run in packs.
“Gabby’s in tune to that formula of racing. He’s out there, he knows what he needs to do. This is the maturity level that I’ve seen in him. He’s come up the (Mazda) Road to Indy and he’s been around for the last three or four years. He knows what these cars want, what they like and don’t like, so he’s a fantastic driver.”
For any driver, the goal is obvious – win. Chaves is no different. But as Unser said, he first has to finish before he can finish first.
Indianapolis, IN May 21st, 20917“We want to have a competitive car in the race and get ourselves inside the top 10 so that we can be there around the last 30 or 40 laps,” said Chaves. “If we can do that, then we’ve got a pretty realistic shot of finishing in the top five or even winning the thing.”