No plans for IndyCar to get rid of standing starts, says Walker

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INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker has said that the series will not abandon standing starts, but also concedes that it has work to do to make them come off cleaner.

Last weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis began in chaos when pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra failed to move from his position on the grid. Seconds later, rookies Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin plowed into the Colombian, spraying debris everywhere along the front stretch.

The Verizon IndyCar Series brought back standing starts last season, but on Thursday at Indianapolis, Walker said “the system we have on our cars is not as good as it needs to be.”

“It’s tricky to set up. The manufacturers set that up, the way the system behaves. It’s enough to say it’s not foolproof. It needs a lot more work than we’ve given it,” he added to the Associated Press.

“Even if the standing start doesn’t work, there’s a function called anti-stall. The engine should always be running. I don’t think the manufactures have gotten that one correct yet.

“They’re trying to go fast and we’re trying to make sure the engine is running when something goes wrong. The car isn’t perfect.”

Team owner Ed Carpenter also noted the drivers’ difficulties with the current system in post-race last weekend.

“I can think of just two where no one has gone off the grid…It’s not that I’m against them,” he said. “Juan [Pablo Montoya] stalled and he’s done more than anyone else. But right now they don’t go off well. They’re exciting where they work.

“I stalled, Charlie [Kimball] stalled, and this one just happened to be where guys stalled up front. It’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing. But right now it’s hard to do with the system we have.”

In hindsight, Walker feels the series should have provided drivers more time to practice the standing starts, but noted that most of the drivers don’t want to get rid of them.

He also thought that the cars were spaced out on the grid too closely, and that both Munoz and Aleshin should have had dedicated spotters on the IMS Pagoda tower.

“We gave them permission to put a spotter on the roof, right on top of the Pagoda,” Walker maintained.

“Usually, only Christ gets to stand up there. There’s only so much we can do.”

The standing starts will return for the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader in June.

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.