Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. once again visited Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this time at the wheel of a 1969 Corvette and in the company of co-driver Peter Klutt. The two were victorious in the Indy Legends Pro-Am race, the feature race of the inaugural Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.
The Indy Legends Pro-Am race teamed former Indianapolis 500 drivers with amateur partners during a 45-minute race on the 2.4-mile road course for 1963 to 1972 vintage Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, and Ford Mustangs. Second place went to 1972 Indy 500 winner Eliseo Salazar driving a Ford Mustang with his amateur partner Gary Moore. Taking the final podium spot was former Trans-Am superstar Willy T. Ribbs and co-driver Ed Sevadjian piloting a 1972 Corvette.
Was little Al happy? “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 (SVRA) President Tony Parella. The field also included Buddy Lazier, Scott Goodyear, Mark Dismore, Robby Unser and Lyn St. James. Legendary driver Parnelli Jones served as grand marshal.
Klutt, as president of Legendary Motorcar Co. and a TV show host, knows a thing or two about meeting celebrities, but when told he was being teamed with Unser, the racing fan in him came to the fore. “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. I told the guys the car had to be 100 percent.”
Their race strategy was for Klutt to start the race and for the team to do the driver change at the first yellow flag. The flag came out on lap 4 and Klutt ducked into the pits to hand the car over to Al. Peter didn’t mind one bit only driving 4 laps. “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.
With perfect weekend weather and more than 700 cars racing in 11 different group classifications, it looks like the SVRA has another signature event on its hands. Sunday’s race and the wider weekend of events were 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.”
Tony Parella, SVRA president and longtime vintage racer, was thrilled to see such a great 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 were 50,000 here or whatever the number over the weekend, they are going to go home and tell somebody what they saw.”
In Parella’s mind the overall reception secured the event’s future. “Oh, next year we will definitely be back. You can take that to the bank,” he said. There won’t be any difficulty in finding participants either. Asked if he would be back, Peter Klutt said, “Oh, we are here. We are here in a second.”
You might want to check the SVRA site and note next year’s Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on your calendar—it looks like it’s an event that’s here to stay.
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