The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) today announced that 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 their Brickyard Invitational vintage race event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) June 6-8. 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 that 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.”
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). Watson 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 Legendary Car Builder Remembered With Trophy For “Best Roadster” 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.
Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser Jr. and Buddy Lazier head a field of impressive names, all veterans of the great race. These include former Indianapolis 500 Rookies-of-the-Year Lyn St. James and Robby McGehee as well as Willy T. Ribbs, Mark Dismore, Geoff Brabham, Alex Lloyd, Johnny Parsons Jr., Davey Hamilton, Jaques Lazier, Robby Unser, Pete Halsmer, Rocky Moran, Eliseo Salazar, Dick Simon, Scott Harrington, Jack Miller, Rick Treadway, Spike Gehlhausen, Billy Roe and John Hollansworth.
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.
Brickyard Invitational ticket information: 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.