Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. returning to the Brickyard for vintage race

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Back in February, Indianapolis Motor Speedway confirmed that it would play host to a vintage race that would feature everything from Indy 500 and Formula One challengers to NASCAR stock cars.

Now, a major figure in “500” lore is suiting up to take part.

Al Unser Jr., who won the “500” in 1992 and 1994, will race in an “Indy Legends Pro-Am” feature that will be part of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Brickyard Invitational weekend on June 6-8 at the Speedway.

The 40-minute Pro-Am itself will take place on June 8 at the Speedway’s newly reconfigured road course.

Several other “500” veterans will join Unser in the feature, including nine-time Indy starter Lyn St. James, Indy Racing League stalwart Mark Dismore, and Willy T. Ribbs, the first African-American driver to ever qualify for the “500.”

The Pro-Am will be contested with Chevrolet Corvettes, Chevrolet Camaros, and Ford Mustangs that are from 1967-1972 and have an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches.

The “500” vets will be paired with amateur drivers, with each taking a 20-minute stint. Five minutes will be allowed for driver changes.

“I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to really racing again at Indy,” said ‘Little Al’ in a statement. “Vintage racing is emerging on a whole new level as a wonderful sport and it’s the real deal when you are going up against the likes of Lyn, Willy T. and Diz. I can’t wait to see the fans – they’re the greatest in the world.”

“It just doesn’t get any better for vintage racing than to have a superstar Hall of Fame driver like Al Unser Jr. race in an SVRA race,” said SVRA president/CEO Tony Parella. “I am overwhelmed by the interest of Indy race fans as well as the drivers. We will be making some additional exciting announcements soon.”

In addition to the road course, the Speedway’s famous oval will be used for exhibition runs by several groups of cars, including some of the 1950s-era roadsters that have endured as a symbol of the race.

Simon Pagenaud has words with Gabby Chaves after Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Photos: IndyCar
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The rain didn’t stop following the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and neither did the jousting between drivers.

An angry Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud confronted Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves after the race, complaining that Chaves would not let Pagenaud get past him in the closing laps.

Instead of ending up with a hoped-for Top 5, Pagenaud wound up with a ninth-place finish. Chaves, meanwhile, finished 17th, two laps down.

The confrontation turned into a battle of words and profanity between the two drivers, as captured on Twitter by AutoWeek’s Matt Weaver.

Afterward – and after their tempers cooled down somewhat – both Pagenaud and Chaves gave their sides of the confrontation to NBCSN.

Gabby Chaves

First, here’s Pagenaud’s take on things:

“We had a really good race going,” Pagenaud said. “I think we potentially could have been top 5. I was really frustrated with Gabby. He was two laps down and I was stuck behind him, which gave an opportunity to (Scott) Dixon as I was trying to do everything I could to make it happen.

“It’s a real shame because when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You’ll have better days later, but you want to have everybody on your side when you have a good day. At the moment, he doesn’t have me on his side, let me tell you. It’s a real shame.”

When asked what exactly he said to Chaves, Pagenaud demurred.

“Driver’s stuff,” he said with a slight smile. “We’ve all been there. I’ve been in his position. My side, I played it smart. It is what it is.

“I can’t comment for him. You can ask him the question. I’m not going to make a deal about it, it’s just a shame it ruined my race. We’ll come back stronger. It’s Indy soon, so that’ll put a smile on my face.”

NBCSN then caught up with Chaves for his side of the story.

 

“It’s a tough situation, we had to restart (the rain-delayed race) a lap down,” Chaves said. “Our whole strategy depends on trying to get a yellow and holding our position. Some guys think that the track belongs only to them, they’re the only guys on-track.

“Everyone else who was faster at that point – we were only one lap down to the leader, so we’re still on our strategy and don’t know what’s going to happen – as soon as they got right up next to me on the lead lap, I let them go.

“Simon was the only one who couldn’t drive up to me. I understand his frustration, but he’s the one who has to save fuel to make his strategy work, that’s not our fault, right?”

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