Vintage cars catch the eye of IMS legends

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SPEEDWAY – A familiar refrain around the famed two-and-a-half mile oval on the northside of Indianapolis is how a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway always kinds the same emotions whether the first time or the last.

That is especially true for those who’ve competed in 500 Mile Races of the past and the venue endures with those who’ve won here even more.

But the always enthusiastic Bobby Unser found even another reason to be mesmerized at the venue on Friday afternoon when he got a chance to check out a new event for the Speedway in June. Needles to say, he was pretty impressed.

“No. 1, I think it’s one of the greatest things outside of the Indy 500 that I’ve ever seen-and it’s happening here,” said Unser on Friday after seeing the Brickyard Vintage Racing invitational. “In other words, I just can’t believe that there are this many vintage cars in the whole United States-and they’re running well-kept.

“Great big trailers. It looks like Indy crews are all over the place. It looks like NASCAR crews are all over the place, but they’re vintage cars.”

By the end of the weekend over 700 of them will filter into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to participate in a number of exhibitions and races that take place over the three-day weekend. The range of cars is vast-from true vintage automobiles that represent the beginning of automobiles at the turn of the 20th century to sophisticated open wheel and stock cars.

Former Indy 500 machines-including a few winners-have made their way onto the road course and the oval with automobiles from NASCAR along with F1 and various other disciplines of Motorsports. Even the most savvy of drivers or automobile enthusiasts are caught a bit off guard by the sites of the inaugural weekend.

“There are beautiful, beautiful cars here-and so many of them,” said 1963 Indy 500 champion Parnelli Jones of the event. “With all the equipment that comes with it, this is amazing.”

One of the highlights of the weekend will be the Legends Pro Am on Sunday afternoon-a 40-minute race that will feature a number of former Indy 500 drivers including Bobby and Al Unser along with veteran race starters Scott Goodyear, Mark Dismore, Lyn St. James, Davey Hamilton and others. Jones will drive a few laps on the oval to pace the field in his 1963 Indy 500 winning car.

For Willy T. Ribbs-who started a pair of Indy 500s in the 1990s-the opportunity to take to the track with such legends is once in a lifetime.

“It would be like a football player of another generation getting on the field with Joe Namath or Johnny Unitas,” said Ribbs of the Legends’ Pro Am. “It was great and an honor to be on the track racing against my heroes.”

For Al Unser Jr, however, the goal hasn’t changed from the days he would take an open wheel machine and try to put it in victory lane after 500 miles.

“Winning,” said Unser Jr. when asked what he hoped for on Sunday-and there are many who believe they have already done so on a special weekend.