FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — That little IndyCar team with a teenage driver has landed a big boost for the second half of the season.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing has secured a multimillion deal for Green Energy Sustainable Solutions, Inc. (GESS) and Capstone Turbine Corp. to provide primary sponsorship for the rest of the season on the No. 88 Honda driven by 19-year-old rookie Colton Herta.
"To get those two companies to come aboard in-season with a multimillion dollar commitment, which will certainly allow us to continue to participate for the rest of this year more comfortably than we were able to do anything last year, that makes you feel great," Harding Steinbrenner team president and former IndyCar executive Brian Barnhart said Friday.
The unusual midseason sponsorship deal came after a previous connection to GESS and Capstone that included the Indianapolis 500 and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin in March, when then 18-year-old Herta became the youngest winner in IndyCar Series by taking the checkered flag in the second race of this season.
"It's a game-changer," said co-owner George Steinbrenner IV, the 22-year-old grandson of late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
This is only the second full season for the team, which was formed in 2017 when Indianapolis-based asphalt and paving company owner Mike Harding had a car start two races that season.
Herta had the fastest practice lap at Texas on Friday at 222.451 mph, nearly 1 1/2 mph faster than Takuma Sato in practice before the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver became the polesitter for Saturday night's race. Herta qualified 10th, the highest of four rookies in the 22-car field.
"A startup race team, a one-car team coming into the IndyCar Series and becoming a viable team is an incredible challenge," Barnhart said. "To have moved the needle as far as Mike's team has in basically a season-and-a-half ... to have been to Victory Lane already is pretty amazing. Still got a long way to go, but that's pretty incredible."
Barnhart said the team survived to get to this point because of Harding's commitment, and some of his business associates and small local sponsors.
The No. 88 car also has a partnership with Andretti for technology assistance, and Alexander Rossi is also running at Texas with GESS and Capstone on his No. 27 car for Andretti Motorsports.
"Over the years, the sport has seen enough people attempt teams, startup teams and have seen far more of them come and go than you would like," Barnhart said. "The fact that we've had the commitment and dedication from Mike to hang in there up until these alliances with the Steinbrenners, and GESS and Capstone, helped us to that next level."
Herta is coming off 12th-place finishes in both of the races last weekend in Detroit, his only top-20 finishes since the victory at COTA.
"Winning is the thing. Once you do it, you want more of it," Steinbrenner said. "The recent string has been tough on the team, but knowing that we can get back up to the top, obviously we've had the speed every weekend, it's gotten the guys really motivated. ... Once we tasted the victory, we know we can do it."
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