Competition changes likely coming for IndyCar, per Walker

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There’s been a large contingent of IndyCar personnel on the ground here at Circuit of the Americas this weekend, whether drivers or competition personnel. Chief among them is the series’ president of competition and operations, Derrick Walker.

Walker is here, working with FIA officials in meetings regarding potential safety and other competition-related improvements that could come to IndyCar in 2014.

Additionally, he confirmed that changes are likely coming to IndyCar’s competition personnel.

“It’s not what you think, though,” he noted. “Frankly we need a bigger staff on the competition side and we need to have the capital investment to be able to do that. We’re moving in that direction.”

A source close to the situation has confirmed the potential addition of at least one known IndyCar entity for the competition department.

Walker said he is still in the midst of what he considered a “steep learning curve” with IndyCar, from the managerial side.

What that does mean is, contrary to earlier reports, that IndyCar will be his first preference in 2014 and not the Falken Tire-backed Porsche sports car team that competes in the merged TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Walker explained why the confusion existed.

“For 2013 I had the commitment to Falken, and because I came into IndyCar midseason, any conflicts meant that I would tend to those Falken responsibilities first. I had to,” Walker said. “I can be at the non-conflicting (sports car) rounds, but IndyCar will be first.”

The Falken TUDOR team will still be run out of the Walker Racing shop in Indianapolis with the same crew. That team is set to miss the first race of the 2014 season as it takes delivery and assembles its new 991-coded Porsche 911 RSR.

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.