Marco Andretti overcomes radio problems for Barber runner-up

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A damp Barber Motorsports Park was tough enough for Marco Andretti in today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, but radio issues in the cockpit proved to be just as big an obstacle.

“I was driving blind today,” Andretti said to NBCSN after today’s Verizon IndyCar Series race. “The only way I knew how to pit – when to pit – was out of the corner of my eye, I saw [teammate] Ryan [Hunter-Reay] stop.

“So I’m like, ‘I guess I’m coming in the next lap’. It was definitely a blind race, but I just had my head down and tried to hit my marks.”

Despite having what he called “a lot of moments” while dealing with the treacherous conditions, Andretti was still able to pull out a second-place finish behind race winner Hunter-Reay – a tremendous turn of events for Andretti Autosport after a decidedly mixed outing two weeks ago at Long Beach.

“I just put my head down and looked forward,” Andretti said. “Awesome job from Andretti Autosport [but my] Snapple car didn’t have much for the DHL car [Hunter-Reay], so we definitely need to hit the drawing board see how he kicked my butt today. But I think it was a heck of a team effort today.”

Andretti started ninth on the grid, but made good progress in the first half of today’s time-shortened race (1 hour, 40 minutes). A great pass on Scott Dixon off of a restart with 51 minutes left put him fourth, and shortly after another restart with 45 minutes to go, he peeled off second from Will Power.

But while he was moving up the pylon, it was revealed that his radio had become unplugged from his helmet. That not only caused Andretti to keep an eye open – literally – for when Hunter-Reay was pitting, but also caused his crew to use a sign board to get their messages across:

Per the INDYCAR rulebook, radio communication must be maintained between the driver and his pit at all times, and that at the series’ discretion, a car can be black-flagged and ordered to repair the radio.

However, it never came to that for Andretti, who held off Dixon in a spirited late-race battle to earn his first podium finish since coming home third last year at Sao Paulo.

Barber also remains one of his better race tracks, as today marked his third Top-5 and fourth Top-10 finish in five starts there.

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.