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Harding confirms O’Ward, Herta in two-car effort for Sonoma

OWard Herta 2

Patricio O’Ward, left, and Colton Herta. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Chris Owens

Harding Racing confirmed on Friday that Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who battled for this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, will make their Verizon IndyCar Series debuts with the team at the season-ending INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

O’Ward, the newly crowned Indy Lights champion, will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet, while Herta will take over the team’s usual No. 88 entry.

Both O’Ward and Herta have tested with the team previously - Herta back in July, while O’Ward tested with them at Sonoma Raceway earlier this week.

“We’re really happy with how Patricio did in the car at Sonoma. Coupling that with the excellent job that Colton did in Portland earlier in August, Harding Racing is really excited about being able to provide their Verizon IndyCar Series race day debuts next week at Sonoma,” said team president Brian Barnhart.

Both Herta and O’Ward are equally as excited to make their IndyCar debuts.

“I’m super happy to get my start in IndyCar next weekend for the Sonoma Grand Prix,” said Herta, who won four Indy Lights races, including the Freedom 100, in 2018. “Mike Harding and Brian Barnhart have been very supportive in this effort and I can’t think of a better place to get my start in IndyCar. There are too many people to thank for this opportunity, but I’m very thankful for Harding Racing.”

O’Ward highlighted that the differences between the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 and the DW-12 IndyCar definitely got his attention during the aforementioned test, but he also emphasized that he adapted quickly and was quite happy with how things went.

“Really happy how the (test) ended. We were very quick, and the car felt very good,” O’Ward explained.

He added, “The differences between the Lights and these cars are insanely different. The amount of grip and the amount of power that these cars have is just something different, I’ve never driven something is fast. Around Sonoma the difference in this aero makes the car so much heavier and the braking capabilities of these type of brakes are amazing. They’re very strong. The car is extremely difficult, so I’m going to have to go to the gym. I’m just super happy with how the day ended and I honestly could not have imagined the car being better. It is a monster. It is a beast. I’m really looking forward to the race weekend, I know we’re going to be pretty strong.”

O’Ward and Herta finished first and second in the Indy Lights championship, and will be the third and fourth drivers to compete with Harding in 2018. Gabby Chaves competed in 13 races for the team in 2018 - he was also the team’s driver in the three races they contested in 2017 - with Conor Daly taking over for three races between July and August.