AUSTIN, Texas – Patricio O’Ward and Harding Steinbrenner Racing have agreed to part ways in advance of the upcoming NTT IndyCar Series season.

O’Ward’s full-time debut with the team was highly anticipated after a fifth-place qualifying effort and subsequent ninth-place finish during last year’s season finale at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

However, persistent rumors emerged during the offseason about sponsorship difficulties for the team, in addition to the revelation that the team only had one full-time engine lease available, with a second lease for the Indianapolis 500 in May.

The team only sent one entry down for this week’s spring training test at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Now, the 19-year-old Mexican driver’s departure from the team is official, with Colton Herta remaining onboard with HSR for the upcoming campaign.

“The Harding Steinbrenner Racing team supported my decision to seek a new opportunity by releasing me from my contract and allowing me the opportunity to find a new team before the start of the 2019 season,” noted O’Ward in a team statement. “Now, I am fully focused on finding the right opportunity and how I will use my scholarship from Indy Lights for 2019.”

As the reigning Indy Lights champion, O’Ward has a $1 million scholarship to take with him to another team, which will enable him to contest at least three Indy car races this season, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

O’Ward captured last year’s Indy Lights title on the strength of nine wins, 13 podiums and nine poles in 17 races.