Legends Turn Back Time And The Elements At Indy SVRA Pro-Am

Photo by Allan Brewer

Photo by Allan Brewer


Indianapolis—The legends of yesterday are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, racing across the yard of bricks as if time were stilled.

The second Sportscar Vintage Racing Association Pro-Am race took place Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM after a brief shower stalled the pre-race ceremonies.

This timed event finds the pros taking their place behind the wheel, the amateurs riding shotgun over the 13-turn, 2.4 mile road course inside and on the famous oval. At each team’s discretion, the amateur may swap spots with the pro and turn a few laps too.

Bob Lazier won the race, with his amateur teammate Jim Caudle alongside in a vintage silver 1969 Corvette roadster adorned with the maroon Arial-font number “27” on its left flank.

“I am thrilled (to win this race),” Lazier said. “I can’t wait to get hold of Buddy and tell him.”

Lazier’s son Buddy won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 on this racetrack’s oval surface.

“Indianapolis is a tough place, but it has been very good to my family over the years,” Lazier continued. “It’s like a second home to us. It’s never a disappointment to come here.”

“These people (speaking of the fans) love racing,” he said. “There’s just nobody else like them.”

For the most part the field in the Pro-Am race is sixties-era Ford Mustangs, Corvettes and Camaros of approximately 350 cubic inches of displacement and a variety of racing trims: classic American iron, our “Muscle Cars,” with some go-fast parts added on.

Speedway historian Donald Davidson counts 33 former Indianapolis 500 drivers on the track for the 2015 SVRA Pro-Am. The reigning SVRA Pro-Am champ is none other than Al Unser, Jr (twice a winner of the 500 himself) who won the inaugural event in 2014.

Davidson figures that the 33 men and women on the track today represent more than a tenth of all living Indianapolis 500 participants.

“Can you believe this?” said Davidson. “I expected we might have half a dozen come back, and then all of these men and women show up. They have such great camaraderie, and fabulous stories to tell.”

Among the returning Indy legends on this worldwide speed-crazy weekend is Davy Jones, the man who finished second for Galles Racing in the 500 in 1996, then was part of the three-man team of winning drivers for Joest Porsche Racing at Le Mans three weeks later.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this,” said Jones. “The Speedway is really something special to me. It brings back a lot of good memories.”

Some of the recollections, of course, are bittersweet. Dick Simon, whose gray hair and broad smile have always been a beacon of good sportsmanship here at the Speedway, recounted both opportunities he had and lost on Memorial Day.

“In 1987 we finished sixth, ran out of fuel,” he said. “I had my chances but the good Lord didn’t see it happening for me. This place has been my life; and it’s one of the sweetest things I’ve done to be here again, and be a part of this week.”

Barrier-breaking women Janet Guthrie—the first female to drive in the Indy 500 in 1977—and Lyn St James put on their helmets one more time as well. Guthrie paced the Pro-Am field in the supercharged white Corvette Z06 pace car that led the Indy 500 field around this oval a short three weeks ago.

“This is a fabulous event,” she said. “I love this sport so much. It is a honor to be a steward of this great tradition.”

“I’m a race car driver,” said St James, who still looks fit enough to contest the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and give the other boys and girls a gritty fight. “I was in from the minute the Speedway called me, to come be a part of doing what I love.”

St James went on to declare the SVRA celebration at the Brickyard an American “Goodwood Revival,” the famous set-piece of historic racing held in September each year on the old Goodwood circuit in West Sussex, U.K.

This throw-back festival commenced on Thursday and continues on through Sunday. The highlight of the sabbath day’s activities is an Unser-family race; and they are all here to contest it: Bobby, Robby, Al, Johnny, Little Al, the whole family.

Competitive to the end, expect the Unser clan to put on quite a show. In Al Jr’s words, speaking of how intense the competition will be on Sunday, “Let the best man win.”



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