FORT WORTH, Texas – Gabby Chaves survived a chaotic Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway and picked up a career-best fifth-place finish in Saturday’s race.
The 23-year-old charged from 20th to fifth to claim his first top-five finish in 25 career Verizon IndyCar Series races and deliver new team Harding Racing its second top-10 in as many races.
“I didn’t even look at the scoreboard until the last caution,” Chaves said. “It’s a good job we kept our nose clean. We had a fast race car. We were in that lead pack. Did we have the speed to win? No, probably not, but we were keeping up.”
Driving the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, Chaves ran steadily if unspectacularly for the first half of the race, never cracking the top 10. Running in 17th place on Lap 151, he was far enough removed to avoid the carnage of a nine-car crash the following lap and never ran out of the top 10 the rest of the way.
From that point, though, Chaves started to get racy and mixed it up with Graham Rahal for 20 laps battling for sixth position. The two ran in close quarters and Chaves was assessed a blocking penalty at one point, forced to yield the spot to Rahal.
“When you are racing under the lights, you’re relying so much on your spotters and I’m relying on my spotter and trying to do the best job I can on my mirrors,” Chaves said. “When you are racing up front, you can’t keep everyone happy. It’s just racing.”
As attrition continued, Chaves was running eighth with five laps to go and dodged another bullet when Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon collided on Lap 244, collecting Conor Daly and Max Chilton with them. Chaves came through unscathed and took the checkered flag under caution in fifth.
The former Indy Lights champion and Verizon IndyCar Series rookie of the year admitted he was both lucky and good in the 248-lap event.
“At the end, a little bit of luck a little bit of staying out of trouble,” Chaves said. “I think we had good pace. I don’t think we had the pace to win it, but I think we had something for the guys up front and we were able to mix it up.”
Following up a ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 with the top-five at Texas has Chaves believing the new team is trending in the right direction.
“This is what you want to see,” he said. “You want to keep it going, you want to build on the momentum, and I think that is what we are doing and I think we are doing a good job at it.”
Larry Curry, Harding Racing’s team manager/race strategist, agreed. Curry has been instrumental in assembling the group since February and is pleased with the collective effort.
“It’s unbelievable,” Curry said. “We put this team together in four months. We’ve run two races, Indy and now Texas. Ninth at Indy and fifth here. I’m just proud of the team and what a great job Gabby’s done.”
Leaving the Texas race with the car in one piece aids Harding Racing’s goal of competing in the third superspeedway race this season, the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in August, with an eye toward a full season in 2018. A top-five finish is icing on the cake.
“Any time you pull the truck into the (track) and you put the tailgate down, you want to try to win it,” Curry said. “This helps us build some morale for the team to get to where you believe that you can compete at this level.”
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