Al Unser Jr. calls his new role as a driver coach and executive consultant at Harding Racing “a dream come true.”
Speaking with Bob Jenkins at the Race Chasers of Indiana luncheon on Saturday, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner told the audience that the his job with the team – which is housed at Ed Carpenter Racing’s former Main Street shop in Speedway – comes with a perk he’s never had before.
“We moved in there a couple weeks ago. I actually have a real office, first time in my life!” said Unser, to laughs from the crowd. “My office used to be surrounded by four wheels and wings and an engine … so now I’ve got one with a real desk. It’s exciting.”
Unser will have a promising talent to work with in Gabby Chaves, who impressed in Harding’s part-time series debut in 2017 with a ninth-place finish at the Indy 500, fifth at Texas and a 15th place at Pocono.
The role also means a reunion with Harding team president Brian Barnhart, which Unser said meant a lot to him.
“Brian and I had been together for many, many years,” Unser continued. “He was my left rear on both my Indy 500 wins, both my IndyCar championships. Really Brian came on board, either ’89 or ’90, and he started working with me and I with him since then. He was a very large part of my success without any doubt.
“Everything’s looking really, really good. It’s a dream come true for myself, and so I can’t thank Mike Harding and the Harding family [enough], they’re super people, as I’ve gotten to know him and everybody within his company.”
The team confirmed last week it will make its full-time IndyCar debut in 2018 with a Chevy-powered entry for Chaves, and Barnhart said the team could add a second entry at select events this year as it works toward a long-term goal of a second full-time car. That second car could be a viable landing spot for Danica Patrick as she looks to secure an Indy 500 ride.