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Mid-Ohio returns to IMSA schedule in May 2018

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will make its return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar in 2018, marking the first time Mid-Ohio has been part of an IMSA calendar since the 2014 merger that brought together the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series.

Mid-Ohio’s return to the calendar will occur in May 4-6, 2018, and will serve as the venerable Lexington, Ohio permanent road course’s kickoff to its new season.

This race replaces Circuit of The Americas, which is off of next year’s calendar.

It’s been since 2013 when GRAND-AM last competed there and 2012 when ALMS did, and from 2007 through 2012 ALMS was always on the same weekend as the Verizon IndyCar Series raced at the track.

Besides IMSA’s Scott Atherton and Mid-Ohio track president Craig Rust, Mike Hull (Ford Chip Ganassi Racing), Bobby Rahal (BMW Team RLL) and Mike Shank (Michael Shank Racing) were also present at today’s announcement.

The full release from IMSA is below.


In a news conference this morning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) President Scott Atherton and Mid-Ohio President Craig Rust jointly announced the return of IMSA racing to the historic, 2.258-mile road course on the weekend of May 4-6, 2018.

The event weekend will be headlined by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will compete at Mid-Ohio for the first time. In addition, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge will return for the first time since 2013.

“Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has a long and storied history of hosting world-class sports car races in front of a loyal and knowledgeable fanbase,” said Atherton. “We will build on that legacy next May with a field of Prototype and GT race cars that represent the pinnacle of the sport. Many of our stakeholders have long been supportive and quite vocal regarding a return to Mid-Ohio and we are pleased that we can finally say ‘We’re back.’”

The most recent top-level IMSA race to be held at Mid-Ohio was a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series event on June 15, 2013 won overall by Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who went on to win back-to-back WeatherTech Championship Prototype titles in 2014 and 2015. The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) raced at Mid-Ohio for the final time on Aug. 5, 2012 won overall by co-drivers Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf.

There were a total of 13 GRAND-AM races and 11 ALMS events at Mid-Ohio. GRAND-AM and the ALMS merged following the 2013 season to form the WeatherTech Championship, which began operation in 2014.

“We are thrilled to announce that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be joining our schedule in 2018. It is a great way to kick off our season,” said Rust. “We have a tremendous following of sports car fans, and they ask us every year when we might be able to bring the IMSA series to Mid-Ohio. We are very proud that we were able to work with Scott Atherton and his team to get this done for them, for us – and most importantly for our fans.”

As part of the announcement, it also was confirmed that IMSA will not be returning to Circuit of The Americas in 2018. IMSA and Circuit of The Americas mutually agreed on the decision and the two companies continue to have a positive, healthy relationship. Both are open to working together again in the future.

Entire 2018 schedules for the WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge will be announced next Friday, Aug. 4 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

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.