Former Indy car driver Bryan Herta was impressed with Gabby Chaves’ results in two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, but it was during a Dec. 17 audition at Sebring International Raceway that drove home what the 21-year-old could bring the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.
“His speed and feedback were very impressive,” Herta said of the 2014 Indy Lights champion, who was named to drive the No. 98 Honda for the 16-race season starting with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27-29. “Gabby has the skills and mind-set to make a real impact in IndyCar. I see no reason why Gabby should not be a top contender for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
“Recent experience has shown that top drivers graduating from Indy Lights have transitioned to IndyCar with great success. We have had the opportunity to work with a few rookie drivers in the last couple years and we believe we have a great environment to support their development and achieve great results.”
It was during a similar test in early 2014 that Indy Lights graduate Jack Hawksworth (Chaves’ Indy Lights teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2013) impressed Herta, who signed the Brit for what turned out the be a successful Verizon IndyCar Series season. Last October, Hawksworth moved on to team with Takuma Sato at A.J. Foyt Racing for 2015.
Chaves, who recorded four victories last season with Belardi Auto Racing, is looking forward to the opportunities on the top level. He'll work with veteran race engineer John Dick.
“I’m so excited and honored to be the latest Colombian driver in IndyCar,” said Chaves, who was recognized last month for his 2014 accomplishments at the FIA Americas Award in Panama. “Our country has such a great history in the sport, and especially at the Indianapolis 500 with drivers like Roberto Guerrero, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz. I can’t wait to make my own history there.”
Chaves entered the December test fresh off a win in the Six Hours of Bogota sports car race in Colombia. In 2013, Chaves earned one victory and 10 podium finishes in the 12-race season, placing second to Sage Karam in the standings. He also was runner-up to Hawksworth in the 2012 Star Mazda championship, and competed in GP3 in 2011. He earned Rookie of the Year honors and finished 10th in the 2010 Italian Formula 3 Championship.
“I’d like to thank my personal team that has been supporting me since the start of my career. It’s been an incredible journey and to finally become a Verizon IndyCar Series driver is an awesome feeling and the start of a great future,” he said. “I’d also like to thank Bryan Herta and the entire BHA team for this opportunity. I’m really excited and prepared to get the 2015 season underway.”
Corporate partners for the No. 98 entry will be announced in the coming weeks. The team announced last autumn that it would file an entry for Jay Howard for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.