Harding Racing is ecstatic and can’t think of a better day to announce Al Unser Jr. will pilot their second entry in the 102nd running of Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The two-time winner will come out of retirement after a ten-year hiatus from the race to compete in the #8 Harding Racing Chevrolet car alongside Gabby Chaves, driver of the #88 full time VICS entry. This will be Harding Racing’s second Indianapolis 500 and first race as a two-car team.
Al recently moved from New Mexico to Indianapolis to pursue his role with Harding Racing as a team consultant and driver coach. What started as a joke between team president Brian Barnhart and Gabby Chaves, progressed into reality as the second Harding Racing car needed an experienced pilot.
“One of the best IndyCar drivers ever is back for the Indianapolis 500,” said team owner Mike Harding. “I believe we will be more than a competitive force during the month of May with Gabby and Al as teammates on Harding Racing.”
“This is still surreal to me,” said Al Unser JR. “Working as a driver coach with Harding Racing and Gabby has been a dream experience, and I’m over the moon with excitement to be driving the team’s second car. I know Gabby and I will work well together and have a lot of fun too. I’m hoping Brian will put a fire-suit back on and go over the wall just like old times.”
This will be Little Al’s second time working with Brian Barnhart, they shared two Indianapolis 500 victories and two CART Championships while working together in the early 1990’s.
“I’m so thrilled,” said team president, Brian Barnhart. “I’m sure a lot of people will think we are fools to be doing this, but I can’t think of any better guy to pilot the car. I’m so excited and I’m actually considering going over the wall for pit stops.”
“I’m super excited. It’s almost like going back in time for me,” said Gabby Chaves. “Racing not only with but competing alongside one of the greatest of our sport. For the past year, Al has been a mentor and coach for me. I think this is the next step into our relationship, and I’ll get an even deeper glimpse into his mind and how he works. I’m thrilled and I know this comeback is something that he has been wanting to do for a long time. Welcome back Al.”
Unser Jr. will be participating in the Indianapolis 500 Refresher Test on May 1st. Fans will have access to watch practice from the Turn 2 stands and viewing mounds all day. Practice will resume on Tuesday, May 15th and continue daily until qualification weekend on May 19th and 20th for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 race on Sunday, May 27th.