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IndyCar’s Barnhart Moving To Harding Racing

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 7 2017

Longtime INDYCAR official Brian Barnhart is leaving the racing organization to take over a team. (Photo courtesy of the IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Brian Barnhart’s long and multi-layered tenure with INDYCAR’s competition staff ended with his recent appointment as president of Harding Racing. Barnhart is scheduled to begin his new position with the Indianapolis-based organization on Dec. 18.

“We are thrilled to have Brian join Harding Racing,” team-owner Mike Harding said in a statement. ”Brian’s years of experience on both the INDYCAR competition side and the operations side makes him an invaluable resource within the league. 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 has served as INDYCAR vice president of competition since May 2013. He previously held the position as president of operations and strategy and INDYCAR’s competition and racing operations division president. Barnhart also assumed the position of race director in January 2015, a post he previously held from 1997-2011.

A native of Indianapolis, Barnhart served in various mechanical roles on Indy car race teams from 1982-1994, including Galles Racing, Penske Racing and Patrick Racing. He has worked with legendary open-wheel drivers/Indianapolis 500 champions A.J. Foyt Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr.

Barnhart was the left rear tire-changer on the pit crew of Unser Jr.’s 1992 Indy 500-winning car at Galles Racing. The following season he was chief mechanic on Al Unser Sr.’s King Racing entry fielded by NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car star Kenny Bernstein.

“I am so appreciative of my years at INDYCAR and with the Hulman-George Family,” Barnhart said. “The opportunity from Harding Racing to return to the competition side of Indy car 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.”

Unser Jr. is Harding Racing’s executive consultant/driver coach. “I’m excited to partner with Brian again,” Little Al said. “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.”

In his role with INDYCAR’s executive team, Barnhart worked with manufacturers, teams and venues overseeing a variety of strategic initiatives. He also oversaw the race control staff, sporting regulations of the rulebook, the Holmatro Safety Team and medical personnel, security and timing and scoring.

As race director, Barnhart was responsible for management of the race including decisions on track conditions, safety dispatch and communication of all decisions made by the stewards to competitors.

Barnhart had been with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR since 1994, when he joined IMS as track superintendent. He served as INDYCAR’s president and chief operating officer from 2004-2007.

Indianapolis-based Harding Racing made its Verizon IndyCar Series debut at the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in May 2017, with Gabby Chaves scoring a lead-lap ninth-place finish after starting 25th in the 33-car field. Chaves, driver of the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, followed that effort with a season-best fifth-place finish in the annual June night race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

A 24-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia, Chaves captured the 2014 Indy Lights Championship for Belardi Auto Racing with four wins, including the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. Driving for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian in 2015, Chaves was named the Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. He drove in seven races in 2016 with Dale Coyne Racing.

Harding is the owner/CEO of Harding Group, a concrete and asphalt paving company based in Indianapolis.

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America’s premier open-wheel street race has received an extended lease on life. The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a new agreement Tuesday with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach that will allow the company to continue running the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach through 2023.

The agreement, which will take effect with the April 13-15, 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, sustains a relationship between the Southern California city and Grand Prix Association spanning the last 43 years.

“We’re looking forward with great enthusiasm to the continuation of this extraordinary partnership between the City of Long Beach and the Grand Prix Association,” said Jim Michaelian, president/CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. “Together we will continue to deliver the first-class, fan-friendly race event that we can all be proud of.”

The annual spring race in Long Beach has earned the reputation as North America’s version of Formula One’s famed Monaco Grand Prix.

The 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will feature six races headlined by the Verizon IndyCar Series. Last year’s event saw James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports record his first series win since suffering life-threatening injuries in a crash while practicing for the 2016 Indianapolis 500. The popular Canadian finished 1.4940-seconds in front of Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais in a battle of Honda-powered cars. American rising star Josef Newgarden _ who went on to win his first series title _ finished third for Team Penske and Chevrolet.

The 85-lap race marked the 34th consecutive year Indy cars have competed on the 1.968-mile/11-turn temporary circuit, the most at any venue on the schedule outside of the Indianapolis 500. American open-wheel icon Mario Andretti won the inaugural Indy car event on April 1, 1984 under Championship Auto Racing Teams sanction. CART sanctioned the race through 2003, with Champ Car running the event from 2004-2007. Frenchman Bourdais won the races from 2005-07.

Tony George’s fledgling Indy Racing League began a three-year run as sanctioning body in 2008, a race won by Will Power of Australia. INDYCAR has overseen the event since 2009, when Englishman Mike Conway prevailed. Led by six-time event champion Al Unser Jr. (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995) the race’s list of winning drivers includes multi-timers Mario and Michael Andretti, Bourdais, Conway, Power, Paul Tracy and Alex Zanardi.

Mario and Michael Andretti and Power share the record for most poles with three each, while Newman Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske share the record for most wins by a team with six each.

Since the 1984 Indy car inaugural, 10 drivers have won the race and gone on to win the series championship during the same season _ Mario Andretti (1984), Unser Jr. (1990 and 1994), Jimmy Vasser (1996), Zanardi (1997 and 1998), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Tracy (2003), Bourdais (2005, 2006 and 2007), Dario Franchitti (2009), Scott Dixon (2015) and Simon Pagenaud (2016).

“I think this is a great opportunity for the city to have this amazing event that we all love and enjoy so much,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said. “It’s great for economic development and to bring visitors into the city. To Jim and the team, thank you for working with us to come up with a new contract that I think is good for everyone.”

Off-track, LBGP race-goers will enjoy free Friday and Saturday night concerts, the Lifestyle Expo featuring a Family Fun Zone, driver autograph sessions from all racing series, special events and exhibits highlighting the Grand Prix’s history, a Food Truck Experience and Sunday’s Mothers Exotic Car Paddock.

Ticket prices for the three-days range from $33 for a Friday general admission ticket to $147 for a three-day package that includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating in grandstand upper levels.  Pre-paid parking packages also are available, along with handicapped seating, Verizon IndyCar Series Paddock access passes, Super Photo tickets and an array of VIP Club packages.

Fans can select and pay for their seats, parking and paddock passes online at gplb.com. Ticket orders also can be placed by calling the toll-free ticket hotline, (888) 827-7333. Children ages 12-and-under will get free general admission with a ticketed adult.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 7 2017
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