It has been formally announced this morning that Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR’s current race director and long-time competition executive, will leave the sanctioning body to pursue a position as president with Harding Racing.
With the addition of Barnhart to lead the program, Harding appears to have made a statement regarding their full-time existence in INDYCAR. They have quietly assembled a fine group a talent with Gabby Chaves driving, Al Unser Jr. as a consultant and now the experienced Barnhart in a leadership capacity. Citing a quote from Chaves at the Pocono race, the operation is developing nicely as a result of the unique efforts of owner Mike Harding.
“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” said the Colombian driver. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys.”
He gave equal credit to Larry Curry, who had been in the most senior competition role to this point as team manager. “Then (it) comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”
As noted in the release, Barnhart has worked with Unser Jr. in the past before moving to INDYCAR’s competition department. The two were members of Galles Racing during the team’s successful run in the early 1990s as well as with Penske in 1994 for Little Al’s second Indianapolis 500 victory. Their positive relationship could have been a factor in the hire, reuniting a successful pairing from the pre-Split days.
The full team press release is listed below.
–FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–
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.
Image courtesy of IndyCar.