Steve Wittich writes in “Track Side Online”
On Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, Harding Racing will be testing Indy Lights drivers at Portland International Raceway.
“It’s a continuation of the plan we announced earlier when we recognized where we were with this season and getting some driver evaluations in,” explained Harding Racing President Brian Barnhart. “Conor (Daly) has done a nice job for us in Toronto and so far this weekend here at Mid-Ohio.”
“Even back then we announced that we’d like to take a look at some of the top talents in Indy Lights and we’re going to take the opportunity to do so. We changed our test from St. Louis (Gateway Motorsports Park) to go out to Portland (International Raceway) to do it.
“Logistically it’s challenging, but it’s probably the appropriate race track to give those guys the first chance of getting in a race car. So, we’re looking forward to doing exactly what we said. We’re going to explore the young, aggressive good talent that’s out there and also continue to find a good mix with some experienced drivers before the season is over.”
Barnhart would not say who would be in the car but intimated it would likely be more than one driver and they would come from the top of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires points standings. None of those drivers would spill the beans, but it’s not too hard to figure out that Patricio O’Ward, Colton Herta, and Santi Urrutia would be the likely candidates.
Rule 6.6.7 in the INDYCAR Rule Book covers Indy Lights driver tests and states that a full season entrant is afforded an extra day of testing to test current Indy Lights series driver(s).
Some version of this rule has been in place since 2014 and current Verizon INDYCAR Series drivers Ed Jones, Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach, Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman DeMelo all got their first taste of the final step on the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder because of that provision in the rule book.
Barnhart was asked if it is essential for INDYCAR teams to support the MRTI. “I really think it is. You look at the job that Dan Andersen has done with the Mazda Road To Indy program all the way through (US)F2000, Pro Mazda, and Indy Lights and what INDYCAR is doing to provide that platform. And, the teams that are supporting it. When you look at INDYCAR teams like Schmidt (Peterson Motorsports) and Andretti (Autosport) and what they have done for that over the years. Tremendous props to them for doing so. Because of my previous experience I see the value in that as well. Hopefully, Harding Racing can get to a point in the years down the road when we are emulating what Sam [Schmidt] and Michael [Andretti] have done with their support for the (Mazda) Road To Indy program.”
Joining the Harding Racing test program at the 1.97-mile, 12-turn Portland International Raceway road course will be Andretti Autosport and Zach Veach, who are utilizing one of their two in-season rookie test days.