Chaves, Harding Racing take conservative approach in Texas qualifying

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Gabby Chaves is looking to give fledgling Harding Racing another strong run, this time at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 23-year-old Colombian-American, who will be making his 25th Verizon IndyCar Series start this weekend, qualified 20th today for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 with a two-lap average of 215.562 mph in the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet.

Coming on the heels of an inspiring ninth-place finish two weeks ago in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the debut for Harding Racing, Chaves said the team chose a conservative setup today because it had little data from Texas Motor Speedway on which to base its qualifying effort.

“The run was what we expected,” Chaves said. “This is a place where, if you want to go for it in qualifying, you’ve really got to have your stuff together. We didn’t have that in practice.

“We went out with what we thought would be a step in where we think we could go and just give it a try, because we certainly were not prepared to have a strong qualifying with the limited amount of laps we had.”

Chaves still hopes to carry the positive momentum built in May into Saturday’s race on the 1.5-mile oval.

Helio Castroneves “The place to have a good result is definitely Indy,” he said. “I think we can be proud of what we did as a first-year team and take it from there, hopefully keep building on it.”

After winning the 2014 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship, Chaves moved up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2015 with Bryan Herta Autosport and became the rookie of the year for the season and the Indianapolis 500. He drove in seven races for Dale Coyne Racing last year before joining Harding this season.

Behind team owner Mike Harding, the team is looking to compete in the three superspeedway races this season as a launch to becoming a full-season entrant in 2018.

Joining a team that is new presents an uphill battle for any driver. Chaves, though, is embracing the opportunity.

“When you start a new team, you have all of the challenges that you can imagine,” he said. “You don’t have the data to work from, especially from a one-car team. You have to build it and you can’t build it as fast as you like to like a multiple-car team.

“You have to take it step by step. Make sure that all of the stuff that you do, you validate and make sure that you are making the right changes and not going backwards.”

Chaves said that a key fixture of the team is having veteran Larry Curry on board as team manager/race strategist. Curry has been instrumental in putting the team together and is focused on taking it full time.

“Larry’s been the guy just putting the pieces together for the team: the crew, organizing everyone, organizing everything,” Chaves said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but like I said, I think we can be happy with the work so far. We just have to try to keep building on it and make our program stronger.

The Verizon IndyCar Series will go racing for the 29th time at Texas Motor Speedway with Saturday’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600. The race will air live on NBCSN and on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 8 p.m. ET.

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