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Brian Barnhart leaves INDYCAR to become Harding Racing president

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File this one under somewhat stunning news: longtime INDYCAR Race Director Brian Barnhart is moving back to the team side of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Harding Racing announced Wednesday Barnhart will serve as its team president. This will see him work alongside Al Unser Jr., a former race steward who’s now Harding’s team executive consultant, for driver Gabby Chaves in the No. 88 Chevrolet.

Mike Harding had never formally confirmed his team’s participation for 2018 full-time but strongly hinted at it at Pocono, the team’s last start of the year.

The full release is below.

Gabby Chaves during practice at Pocono Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Brian Barnhart has been named President of Harding Racing, effective December 18, 2017. Barnhart, will be based at the Harding Racing corporate office in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“We are thrilled to have Brian join Harding Racing. Brian’s years of experience on both the IndyCar competition side and the operations side makes him an invaluable resource within the league,” said Mike Harding, owner of Harding Racing. “We have the legendary Al Unser, Jr., an incredibly talented young driver in Gabby Chaves, a hand-picked winning crew led by team manager, Larry Curry, and now Brian. He is the missing piece that will take Harding Racing to victory lane.”

Barnhart’s tenure in the operational side of INDYCAR began in 1997 where he served in various roles, most recently as Vice President of Competition and Head of Race Control. Prior to his move to INDYCAR, Barnhart spent several years as a crew member for multiple race teams including Al Unser Jr.’s winning teams.

“I am so appreciative of my years at INDYCAR and with the Hulman-George family,” said Barnhart. “The opportunity from Harding Racing to return to the competition side of INDYCAR racing was too hard to pass. I am very excited about the incredible opportunity to work with Harding Racing and alongside Al Unser Jr. again.”

“I’m excited to partner with Brian again,” said team executive consultant, Al Unser Jr. “In our younger years, we won two Indianapolis 500s and two CART Championships together. I’m looking forward to celebrating many more victories with Brian and Harding Racing.”

Indianapolis based Harding Racing made its Verizon INDYCAR Series debut at the 2017 Indianapolis 500. The team is led by Mike Harding, owner and CEO of Harding Group, a concrete and asphalt paving company based in Indianapolis. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. serves the team as executive consultant. Gabby Chaves, the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, is the driver of the #88 car. In addition to their ninth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, the team competed at Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway, finishing fifth and fifteenth respectively. The team plans to compete full-time in the 2018 Verizon INDYCAR season.

Harding Racing is part of Harding Group, a prominent local Indianapolis company that has conducted business in Indiana and surrounding states since 1960. Harding Group’s more than 350 experienced craftsmen, degreed engineers and estimators provide customers with one-stop shopping for their paving needs. Pavement Magazine consistently ranks Harding Group’s Asphalt Division in the “Top Ten” of asphalt paving companies in the United States. Over the course of their 50-year history, Harding Group has evolved from a single company to a diverse set of companies including Harding Transport, Harding Materials Inc., Harding Logistics and Harding Snow & Salt.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”