Gabby Chaves to rejoin IndyCar for 101st Indianapolis 500

Jun 6, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; IndyCar Series driver Gabby Chaves (98) during qualifying for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 6, 2015; Fort Worth, TX, USA; IndyCar Series driver Gabby Chaves (98) during qualifying for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

IndyCar 2015 Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves will return for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 with the brand-new Harding Racing.

Gabby Chaves deserved another chance in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and he’s getting one as he’ll compete in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 for newly established organization Harding Racing.

IndyCar announced via press release on Monday that Chaves was officially entering the 101st running of the Indy 500 with Harding.

The team takes its name from owner Mike Harding, CEO of the Indianapolis-based asphalt and concrete paving company Harding Group, who formed a technical alliance with Dennis Reinbold from Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in order to field a car for Chaves.

Gabby Chaves will officially make his debut in the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet in this week’s IndyCar test at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m extremely delighted to have the opportunity to get to challenge for my third Indy 500,” the 23-year-old said. “I am very excited to be joining a new team with our new owner Mike Harding, and everyone involved, including Larry Curry, who has been instrumental in getting the team together and guiding it.”

Racing veteran Curry will be Harding Racing’s team manager. His son Matt, who was part of the engineering team when Tony Kanaan won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 for KV Racing, will serve as the lead engineer on the No. 88.

And Harding have also signed two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. to be the team’s driving instructor, giving Chaves a fantastic crew with which to work in May.

It’s a well-deserved opportunity for Gabby Chaves, who was both Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and IndyCar Rookie of the Year in his first and so far only full-time IndyCar season in 2015.

Chaves lost his ride at Bryan Herta Autosport due to funding issues, and Herta went on to shore itself up by partnering with Andretti Autosport to field the No. 98 car for 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Last year Chaves signed a limited contract with Dale Coyne Racing that saw him run seven of the 16 races. His best finish was 12th in the first half of the Dual in Detroit.

But he’s always been a promising driver whose opportunities have just not panned out, and this new deal should at least put him into contention for the 101st Indy 500. It’s not known if Harding would have the ability to put Chaves forward for other races, but we can certainly hope that’s the case as IndyCar continues to look for new teams on the grid.

If nothing else perhaps this would open the door for him to get a second look from another race team. Gabby Chaves certainly has the talent to be a full-time IndyCar driver, and showing well at Indy is the first step back toward that.

“I’ve had good races at IMS, although the result has never come together. But I think this is the year that I really have to put it together to get the result,” he said in Monday’s press release. “That’s my main focus, and I definitely think I’m going to have one of the best programs out there among those [that are] focused on Indy only.

“Again, I’m just extremely happy and grateful for the opportunity I have, and I can’t wait to get the month started.”

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The 101st Indianapolis 500 takes place on May 28, 2017. For more on the Indy 500 and all of the latest news in IndyCar, follow along with the Motor Sports category at FanSided here.