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Indy Vintage info

Postby Ron Verash » Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:34 pm

Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. returned to the winner’s circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) today and was joined by co-driver Peter Klutt in the “Indy Legends” Pro-Am – the feature event of the Brickyard Invitational. The two piloted Klutt’s 1969 Corvette to victory over a field 23 other Pro-Am driver combinations in American muscle cars from 1963 through 1972. Indy car winner Eliseo Salazar and Canadian amateur Gary Moore chased the winners across the iconic yard of bricks. The second-place finishers were the Mustang in a Corvette sandwich as the final spot on the podium was captured by former Trans-Am superstar Willy T. Ribbs and his co-driver Ed Sevadjian who shared driving duties in Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) CEO Tony Parella’s red 1972 Corvette. The contest took place on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course.

“Any time you win at Indy is a great day,” said Unser. “Our strategy was to do the driver change on the first yellow so I hope Peter doesn’t feel cheated because we weren’t out there very long before that happened.” The yellow flag flew on lap four when the blue 1965 Ford Mustang of former Daytona 24 Hours winner Rocky Moran and James Rogerson stalled on the front stretch. The flag consumed several minutes before the car was towed off the running surface, triggering a flurry of driver changes as many embraced the eventual winner’s strategy.

Klutt, a full-on “car guy” is widely respected for his driving prowess and passion. Currently the host of Velocity’s “Legendary Motorcar” television series he is a high-end car restorer. “If you are going to turn your car over to anybody it should be a great champion like Al – a legend and one of the greatest of all time.”

Ribbs’ effort was particularly impressive as issues developed with his original ride and he was forced to jump into Parella’s Corvette without any practice. “Right before the race Al gave me a little tip and I am here to tell you it was absolutely spot on. It really helped a lot.” Ribbs also generated a round of laughter when he unzipped of his uniform to reveal a bare chest. In his hurry to get to the grid he skipped putting on his Nomex underwear. “I went commando today,” he announced.

Lyn St. James co-driver Curt Vogt turned fast lap of the race at 1 minute, 42.08 seconds – just a fraction speedier than Unser’s best time. Their blue Mustang was in the thick of things for much of the race, eventually finishing tenth. Scott Goodyear and co-driver Stephen Seitz led briefly in their Ford Mustang before fading. Still, Unser and Klutt seemed to have the car to beat and the result bore that out.

“That was a very, very classy podium,” said SVRA CEO Tony Parella as he looked upward at the trio of professional champions and their co-drivers joyfully pouring bottles of milk over one another’s heads. “I am thrilled for all of them to experience the victory podium at Indy.”

While the Pro-Am, a charity event where the entry fees benefit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Foundation, carried the luster of Indy 500 superstars the racing all weekend had a glorious feel to it as cars spanning 100 years of history were highly accessible to fans and active on both the road course and the world-famous 2.5-mile oval. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser led the Indy cars into a high-speed experience on the oval. Grand Marshal Parnelli Jones was visible throughout the weekend stopping to greet fans, posing for pictures and autographs. His energized command for the drivers to start their engines received a burst of applause and shouts from a strong crowd of enthusiasts.

Outstanding weather on Saturday enhanced the experience of a very healthy turnout of race fans. Thick rows of people clamored along Gasoline Alley leading to the pit entrance to catch a glimpse of the wide variety of car classes that included exquisite examples of select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and Le Mans prototypes as current as 2009. The crowd-favorite 1950’s-vintage Indianapolis 500 “roadsters” elicited exceptional applause and cheers. In all there were 712 race cars on hand organized into 12 groups that staged exciting racing and displays of high-speed from 8 a.m. to track close at 6 p.m. Full race results for the weekend will be posted on

Another feature of the weekend was the presentation of special trophies for the best examples of specific cars: Indy roadsters, pre-war racers, Brabhams and Best-of-Show. Long-time car roadster collector Bill Aiken won the first “A.J. Watson Tribute Trophy” for his black 1953 Kurtis-Kraft front-engine machine best known for finishing third in the hands of driver Jimmy Davies in 1955. The pre-war category trophy was captured by another car with exceptional history – owner Peter Giddings’ 1931 Alfa-Romeo. The best drivers of 1930’s Europe drove the car: Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi and Rudolf Caracciola. The Sir Jack Brabham Commemorative Trophy was won by Bob Lima for his 1967 Brabham BT21 while Wil Painter’s 1966 Alfa Romeo GTV was named “Best-of-Show.”



The Pro/Am team of Al Unser Jr.,left, and Peter Klutt,right, celebrate their win in the Indy Legends Charity Pro/Am Sunday afternoon. Matt Kryger / The Star


And here’s even a bit more from Autumn Allison of the Indianapolis Star:

As Peter Klutt put it: "If you are going to hand it over to someone, you might as well hand it over to Al." Klutt, the president of Legendary Motorcar Co. and former TV show host, teamed up with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. to win the 45-minute Indy Legends Charity Pro/Am race Sunday, part of the first SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Eliseo Salazar/Gary Moore finished second, several car lengths back, in the inaugural race, while the tandem of Willy T. Ribbs/Ed Sevadjian took third.

"It absolutely (is a big deal) to drink the milk, and get your ring and have the crowd," Klutt said. Unser, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, agreed with his partner. "It feels great," he said. "Anytime you win at Indy, it's a good thing."

Unser was one of 24 Indy 500 veterans paired with amateur drivers by Sportscar Vintage Racing Association President Tony Parella. The field also included Buddy Lazier, Scott Goodyear, Mark Dismore, Robby Unser and Lyn St. James.

"When he told us it was all Indy 500 drivers, it was 'Yeah, put every one of them in the car.' And then when it was Little Al, it was unbelievable," said Klutt. "I thought 'Man, this is a chance of a lifetime' and to just jump at it. Told the guys the car had to be 100 percent." His team's preparations paid off. "Pete and his crew did a fantastic job preparing the car," Unser said.

Klutt began the race in the 1969 Chevrolet Corvette but had his time behind the wheel cut short because of the team's strategy to switch drivers when the race hit the first yellow. The caution came early in the race — approximately five minutes in — when the Rocky Moran/James Rogerson '65 Ford Mustang stopped at the yard of bricks. "We got a fairly decent lead and a nice clean start," Klutt said. "I just wanted to conserve the car so when Al got in it, he had lots of car to go."

Unser sympathized with Klutt's short run. "I kind of thought you got a bit cheated there at the beginning because the yellow did come out pretty quickly," he said.

With a few minutes left in the race, the Buddy Lazier/Sean Ryan team crashed into the passenger side of the '67 Ford Mustang driven by John Martin/Jeffery Garrett. Lazier and Ryan's '69 Corvette, one of several in the race, suffered significant damage to the front bumper on the driver's side.

Sunday's race and the wider weekend of events was considered a success by Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson. "Everywhere you looked, there were grins," he said. "Whether it was participants or spectators, everybody was happy. I don't know how it can be more successful."

Parella, a longtime vintage racer and businessman, was thrilled to see such a good fan turnout. "I think the fans supported us very well," he said of the three-day event. "I don't know what the numbers are yet, but I think when it is all said and done, the most important thing to this is whether there was 50,000 here or whatever the number over the weekend, they are going to go home and tell somebody what they saw."

The overall reception secured the event's future, in Parella's mind. "Oh, next year we will definitely be back. You can take that to the bank," he said. Parella won't have a difficult time finding participants, either. "Oh, we are here," said Klutt. "We are here in a second."
Ron Verash
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Michana Vintage Racers
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Ron Verash
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