Month of May Exclusive: Behind the scenes at Harding Racing’s 45,000 square foot shop in Speedway

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- “Re-imagined, revitalized, and ready to explore."

That’s how the Speedway Redevelopment Commission describes Speedway’s new Main Street. Just a few years ago, this strip was considered a convenient shortcut during the busy month of May. Now, Main Street is a revitalized year-round destination featuring restaurants, breweries, attractions, and, of course, a strong spirit of racing.

Located across from A.J. Foyt Racing is the 45,000-square-foot facility that was once home to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing as well as Ed Carpenter Racing. But as of Jan. 1 of this year, Harding Racing calls 1255 N. Main Street home.

We're getting an exclusive look inside and who better to show us around than driver of Harding Racing’s #88 IndyCar,  Gabby Chaves!

Driver of Harding Racing #88 Chevrolet, Gabby Chaves
Credit: Harding Racing Facebook page

Chaves: Welcome to Harding Racing shop!

Rachel: How cool is it to be right on Main Street in Speedway?

Chaves:  It’s fantastic. We’re just walking distance from the track, walking distance from all the restaurants here in Speedway and on Main Street so it’s fantastic so far. 

Rachel: Where were you guys before this?

 Chaves: We were leasing--or renting--a small space out of the Morgan Lucas shop in Brownsburg. 

 Rachel: So upstairs is the corporate side of things?

 Chaves: Yes, so we have kind of divided: Harding Racing takes the bottom shop floor with the race cars and the performance side and the upstairs is the Harding Racing marketing as well as part of the Harding Group.

 Rachel: So all the business.

 Chaves:  A lot of the business happens up here. Also,  we’ve got a lot of the racing performance side up here. We’ve got our team manager’s office up here in this part. Up next we have our president of competition’s (Brian Barnhart) office.

 Rachel: I like the couches. It’s very cozy, which is sort of unexpected.

 Chaves: It’s all very comfy, very homey. And of course, one of his pride and joys, Mike Harding’s office.

 Rachel: The big one!

 Chaves: Yes, the team owner. 

Harding Racing/Harding Group Owner and CEO Mike Harding
Credit: Harding Racing Facebook page

So how did a man who built his career on a very successful asphalt and paving business with the Harding Group end up owning an IndyCar team?

Apparently, as a lifelong fan, the Indy 500 has always been a part of Harding’s life. And now, he gets to be part of Indy.

Chaves:  He’s been involved in the Indy 500 for years and years and years as a sponsor. And he took that next step in becoming a team owner. 

He’s even featured on an impressive mural covering an entire wall of his office. The mural also features the Borg-Warner trophy, two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. (who serves as and Harding’s executive consultant and driver coach) and --of course-- Chaves.

Rachel: Is it strange seeing yourself illustrated in such a big way like this or are you used to seeing yourself plastered everywhere nowadays? 

Chaves: I haven’t seen it at this magnitude.

Rachel: This is a first?

Chaves: Yeah. But it’s enjoyable. It gives me something to look forward to. Especially when we’ve got the Borg-Warner right behind it as well.

Rachel: Yeah, so you think “That’s my face, it just has to go there [on the trophy].” Sort of like visualizing it and it will happen?

Chaves: Exactly!

Four Things You Need to Know about Harding Racing:

  • 1. The team began in early 2017 with an idea by current team manager Larry Curry. Since then Harding Racing has assembled a team of highly successful racing professionals to participate in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
  • 2. Harding Racing is owned and managed by Mike Harding. Mike is also the owner and CEO of Indianapolis-based Harding Group, an asphalt and concrete contractor. He has been involved with the paving industry and his father’s company, F.E. Harding, since the early 1980s.
  • 3. Originally from Colombia, driver Gabby Chaves began his racing career at age 13 and has won three championships (Formula BMW Pacific, Formula BMW Americas, and Indy Lights) and two Rookie of the Year awards (2015 Sunoco Indianapolis 500 and 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series). He placed 9th in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.
  • 4. The Harding Racing logo was inspired by the Harding family crest and symbolizes tradition, movement, swiftness, and strength. You even see the logo and words painted prominently on the wall of the shop, as a daily reminder of those values.

Harding Racing logo

When it comes to putting a winning race car on the track, everything starts downstairs in the shop.

Rachel: So, we’re talking top secret stuff down here?

Chaves: Oh yeah, top secret!

Rachel: It’s kind of crazy to see the car in pieces.

Chaves: Pretty much the car spends a lot more time in pieces than it does together. It’s really only together for the races itself. Any space of time in between that, they’re usually taken apart and rebuilt to make sure all the parts are fresh and we can always have that best performance on track when the car is fully built. 

Rachel: So what’s this room?

Chaves: So this room, we’ve got our guys that fix, rebuild, and they build our gearbox, our uprights, our brakes, differentials, all that work happens in here. That’s a bit of a “dark arts” type of room.

Near the back of the shop, they’ve got not one but two transporters, which are used for much more than just transporting the race cars.

Chaves: We’ve got a small engineering office inside. That lets the drivers work and debrief after and in between sessions to prepare for each individual session throughout the weekend.

Rachel: Would you say you guys spend more time in here or in the garage?

Chaves: The engineering and the drivers, we spend more time inside the truck. But the crew guys, all the mechanics— they’re hands-on on the car.

Rachel: So as a driver, you’re back and forth?

Chaves:  A bit of both. But most of the time I will spend in the engineering office

They also happen to have a fully-equipped gym.

Chaves:  It’s great for me because I can just come here and I don’t have to make another trip to train or work out. I can just do it here. The guys can work out here as well. 

Rachel: It takes quite a bit of training as well to do those pit stops as quickly as they must, right?

Chaves:  Absolutely! It’s hard to tell from the outside, but they have to get the wheel off and back on in under 5 seconds so those guys— they’ve got to be strong to be able to do that. 

Rachel: I tried that once and it wasn’t good. Well, it was good for me— I think it was like 9 seconds.

Chaves: That’s pretty good!

Rachel: For me that’s pretty good but I don’t think I’m making the team any time soon!

If they ever need some inspiration, all they have to do is look up and be reminded of the Harding family crest and its four pillars.

Chaves: The words are Strength, Integrity, Swiftness, and Tradition. It’s something that [Mike Harding] and the whole Harding Racing, Harding Group— team— try to live by.

Rachel: Yeah, especially swiftness. You’re gonna need that.

Chaves: We’re gonna need that! 

On that note, it was time to go.

Chaves: All right guys, it’s been great having you here to tour the Harding Racing shop but I’m afraid we’ve got some work to do so you guys have got to get out.

For more information about Harding Racing, check out their website or connect  on social media via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. For more info about Speedway’s Main Street and the Speedway Redevelopment Commission, visit their website here.

While in Speedway, you can keep in the race spirit by visiting one of these neighboring businesses, all just steps from Harding Racing’s headquarters on Main Street:

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