On Sunday, June 8, two dozen of the greatest names ever to take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will compete once again for fame, glory, and a good cause during the Brickyard Invitational vintage race event. Put on by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, the “Brickyard Invitational” weekend will be the largest gathering of race cars ever assembled for competition in America.
The SVRA has 11 groups of cars spanning 100 years of vintage machines and all will be in action at IMS. Most of the races will take place on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course but for the first time in history cars will be at speed on both the world-famous 2.5-mile oval and the road course on the same day. All cars will have a chance to tour the oval at speed, including the crowd-favorite 1950’s-vintage Indianapolis 500 “roadsters.”
“Honestly I think that even for those of us who were not around for the roadster era at Indy those cars are still the ultimate iconic Indianapolis 500 race car,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “No one is more recognized for his roadsters than the great A.J. Watson and we simply want to honor him.”
Legendary Indianapolis 500 mechanic and car builder A.J. Watson will be remembered when they present the first annual “A.J. Watson Tribute Trophy” during theirat the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) June 6-8. Watson roadsters won the Indianapolis 500 six times with some of the greatest names of the sport at the wheel: Pat Flaherty (1956), Rodger Ward (1959 & ‘62), Jim Rathmann (1960), Parnelli Jones (1963) and A.J. Foyt (1964). He reached the zenith of his career when team owner Ralph Wilke formed the Leader Card Team in 1959. Wilkie combined Watson’s incomparable mechanical talents with Ward’s immense driving skills. The press loved it, dubbing the trio, “The Flying W’s.” Watson, who first came to IMS in 1948, led Indianapolis 500 race teams through 1984 and returned frequently afterwards as a consultant to teams. Demand for his roadsters remains strong and collectors purchased new ones that Watson constructed well into his eighties. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996 and passed away May 12.
The SVRA is forming a special team of judges who will review roadsters at IMS during the Brickyard Invitational weekend. The cars will be judged on appearance, function and historical significance and the winner will be called, “best roadster.” The SVRA is recruiting veterans of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race to serve as judges and those names will be released soon. Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500 in a Watson roadster, will serve as Brickyard Invitational Grand Marshal for the weekend. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser will lead the Brickyard Invitational high-speed oval experience, which is open to all Brickyard Invitational cars including the roadsters.
The Brickyard Invitational has over 700 race cars on its entry list. It boasts exquisite examples of select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and endurance prototypes as current as 2009. The feature event of the weekend is the “Indy Legends Pro-Am,” an intriguing competition for as many as 24 veterans of the Indianapolis 500. This will be a 40-minute race of American muscle cars utilizing the IMS Grand Prix road course on Sunday, June 8. The cars for the Pro-Am will be 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of “Group 6,” with an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches. The Indianapolis 500 veterans will be paired with amateur drivers, each taking a 20-minute stint. Five minutes will be allotted for driver change.
Recently, the SVRA announced that it exceeded expectations in filling a field of 24 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race veterans for its upcoming “Indy Legends” Pro-Am race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tom Bagley, John Martin and Bob Lazier join 21 previously announced entries in the feature event of the June 6 – 8 “Brickyard Invitational” vintage race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Bob Lazier joins his sons Buddy and Jaques as the three are united in competition at the Speedway for the first time. Buddy won the 1996 Indianapolis 500.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. heads a field of impressive names that also include former Indianapolis Rookies-of-the-Year Lyn St. James and Robby McGehee as well as Willy T. Ribbs, Mark Dismore, Alex Lloyd, Johnny Parsons Jr., Davey Hamilton, Robby Unser, Pete Halsmer, Rocky Moran, Eliseo Salazar, Dick Simon, Scott Harrington, Jack Miller, Rick Treadway, Spike Gehlhausen, Billy Roe and John Hollansworth. Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, will pace the field as part of his duties as Brickyard Invitational Grand Marshal. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser will lead a Brickyard Invitational high-speed oval experience.
The cars for the Pro-Am will be 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of “Group 6,” with an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches. The Indianapolis 500 veterans will be paired with amateur drivers, each taking a 20-minute stint. Five minutes will be allotted for driver change.
The three latest entries have compelling stories of their own. While Indianapolis 500 fans may best remember John Martin as a five-time starter in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – easily the crown jewel of oval track events – he boasts outstanding credentials in road race competition. Martin, who is featured on this month’s cover of Vintage Motorsport magazine, launched his career in sports car racing. An excellent mechanic he converted his 1963 Corvette Sting Ray into an A-Production race car and went Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing. He was national champion in 1964 and went professional in 1966. He drove an AMC Javelin in the classic days of Trans-Am and tackled the Indianapolis 500 in 1972. He is one of those amazing competitors who wore several hats as driver, mechanic, engineer and owner.
Bagley is another driver who accomplished much with limited resources. A three-time Indianapolis 500 starter, Bagley captured the Indy car Rookie-of-the-Year trophy in 1978. He competed in 42 Indy car races in his career, dicing it up with the leading drivers of the day with top four finishes on three occasions and placing in the top ten 23 times during a period when some of the greatest legends in history were at the zenith of their careers. During his sterling rookie season he drove for the legendary car builder A.J. Watson who will also be recognized during the Brickyard Invitational with a special trophy in his honor for the “best Indy roadster” appearing on the grounds.
Lazier, the patriarch of the famous Lazier racing family will return to competition at the Speedway as a driver after 33 years. A skilled road racer, he earned three top-five finishes on his way to winning the Indy car Rookie-of-the-Year Award in 1981. A successful businessman, Bob, the founder of the highly acclaimed Tivoli Lodge in Vail, Colorado is, like Martin and Bagley, a self-made man. Action oriented and an avid skier he started racing cars in 1969 and cut his teeth in SCCA road racing. He progressed steadily through the open wheel ranks in VW Gold Cup, Formula Vee, Super Vee, Formula 5000 and on to Indy cars. He is currently at the helm of Lazier Partners Racing, the team behind son Buddy’s entry in this year’s Indianapolis 500.
“This outstanding field of talented drivers has come together in a very short time,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “I believe we have delivered on our promise to assemble a great field of Indy 500 veterans and more. I am honored to say the interest has been overwhelming by fans and drivers alike. We still have a couple of conversations going on with some legendary drivers but beyond that the field is full and now we move on to the logistics of putting on a great show.”
The exciting array of entries include exquisite examples of select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and endurance prototypes as current as 2009. The Pro-Am cars and drivers will also participate in a Fan Walk through the starting grid prior to the opening ceremonies allowing fans to see the cars up close, take photos and chat with the drivers. Entries to this event will be limited and all entry fees will be donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum Foundation. Race fans can enjoy every minute of the Brickyard Invitational action by taking advantage of overnight camping inside the Speedway.
A three-day general admission pass including Friday, June 6 through Sunday, June 8 costs $40. Single day general admission tickets are $15 on Friday, June 6, $20 on Saturday, June 7 and $25 on Sunday, June 8. Children 12 and under are admitted free each day when accompanied by an adult. Existing ticket customers to any 2014 IMS event are eligible to receive discounted general admission three-day passes for $30 until May 1 (save $10). Tent camping passes in Turn 3 of the IMS infield are available beginning Thursday afternoon, June 5 for $30, with RV camping available in the Northwest gravel lot for $60. Fans can order Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational tickets at www.ims.com/tickets, by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or by visiting the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.
Be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers, no matter how many (or how few) wheels they may or may not race on. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.