Toronto Friday news, notes, and Race 1 qualifying groups

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A few news and notes from around the paddock in Toronto:

  • Race Director Beaux Barfield (pictured) will not be in Toronto this weekend for personal reasons. INDYCAR Senior Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart will serve as race director for the doubleheader IZOD IndyCar Series races July 13-14 at the Honda Indy Toronto. Barfield will resume his duties in Race Control at the next IZOD IndyCar Series event, the Honda Indy 200 on Aug. 2-4 at Mid-Ohio.
  • Additionally in the senior management domain, INDYCAR exec vp of corporate business development, Greg Gruning, has left his post and shifted to a technology company. A paywall story from Sports Business Daily is linked here with more, if you have access.
  • Per a RACER.com story by Marshall Pruett, Dragon Racing has released all but two of the crewmembers on Sebastian Saavedra’s No. 6 TRUECar Dragon Racing Chevrolet team.
  • James Jakes of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will serve a 10-spot grid penalty for Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader for an unapproved engine change after the last race at Pocono Raceway.
  • Besides Tristan Vautier, rookie of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Marco Andretti will be in a different livery this weekend. He’ll reprise the Dr Pepper colors he has raced here the last two years. Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan is back in the Hydroxycut livery for KV Racing Technology – SH after racing in three of the last four events with Sunoco / “Turbo” colors on his No. 11 Chevrolet.

Qualifying groups for Friday’s qualifying (5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) are listed below.

Group 1                Group 2
#67 Josef Newgarden       #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay
#55 Tristan Vautier (R)   #4 Ryan Briscoe
#12 Will Power            #25 Marco Andretti
#16 James Jakes           #11 Tony Kanaan
#7 Sebastien Bourdais     #10 Dario Franchitti
#9 Scott Dixon            #27 James Hinchcliffe
#98 Alex Tagliani       #19 Justin Wilson
#3 Helio Castroneves      #83 Charlie Kimball
#5 E.J. Viso              #15 Graham Rahal
#14 Takuma Sato           #6 Sebastian Saavedra
#77 Simon Pagenaud        #78 Simona de Silvestro
#20 Ed Carpenter          #18 Mike Conway

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.