“Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am “Rookie Class” Expands to Seven At IMS
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) today announced that three more first-time drivers – Josele Garza, Ana Beatriz and Cory Witherill – have entered the “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am, the feature event of their Brickyard Invitational race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The trio joins Paul Tracy, Larry Foyt and A.J. Foyt IV as Indianapolis 500 veterans new to SVRA competition in the Father’s Day weekend (June 16-19) event. The additions bring the list of professional drivers new to the contest to seven as a special “Garage 34” promoter’s option entry for NASCAR champions Bill Elliott and Ray Evernham, who will share a car, has been filed as well.
“The interest in our Pro-Am is strong among fans and drivers alike,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “Veteran Indy 500 drivers reach out to join us. We enthusiastically welcome Bia, Josele and Cory.”
The Pro-Am feature is a 40-minute race of American muscle cars on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course on Saturday, June 18. The cars are 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of the “Group 6” SVRA class. This year’s entry list is loaded with talent including the Unser cousins – Al Jr., Robby and Johnny – as well as Willy T. Ribbs, Lyn St. James, Geoff Brabham and Davy Jones. Today’s entries bring the field count to 26 and SVRA officials expect 33 Indy 500 veterans will compete in the contest. The professionals will be paired with amateur drivers, splitting stints at the wheel at their discretion.
Garza, who won the 1981 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year award at age 19, competed in the event seven times. He was the youngest driver to qualify for the race until A.J. Foyt IV arrived in 2003. Garza cracked the top 10 in 1984 and holds a career total of 13 laps led. In 88 Indy car series starts he racked up 33 top-10 finishes with a best placement of second at the 1986 Michigan 500 behind racing legend Johnny Rutherford. Another high point in his career was his victory in the 1980 USAC Mini-Indy Pocono race which, along with two runner-up finishes at other races, earned him second place in the series championship at just age 18. A Mexican, his reputation earned him a Brabham Formula One test during practice for that country’s grand prix in 1986. He also tested with the Minardi Formula One team in 1987.
Cory Witherill owns the distinction of being the only Native American Navajo driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He earned that honor in 2001 when he cracked the field on the traditionally tense “bump day” – the final rounds of qualifying. Despite starting on the last row he steadily worked his way forward to finish 19th. Beginning in 1999 Witherill spent much of his time before and after his Indy 500 appearance competing in versions of the Indy Lights Series. In six seasons he scored eight podium finishes including a victory in the 100-miler at Nashville Speedway during the 2002 season. In addition to the Brickyard Invitational, Witherill is considering a return to racing as he recently tested an IMSA Prototype Challenge (PC) car for BAR1 Motorsports with an eye to competing in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Brazil’s Ana Beatriz, also known as “Bia” to friends and fans, is a four-time veteran of the Indianapolis 500. She got started racing karts in Brazil at age 12, winning one of her country’s top championships in 2003. Ana also entered Brazilian Formula Renault in 2003 and won that season’s rookie-of-the-year award. She spent three seasons in the Formula Renault series, scoring three wins and three poles in 2005. After a year in the Brazilian Formula Three championship she came to America to go racing in the Indy Lights Series. She earned significant success there with two wins, seven podiums and the rookie-of-the-year trophy in 2008. Ana was also presented the Tony Renna “Rising Star” award that same year. Her race victories made her the first woman to win in Indy Lights history. Ana qualified for four successive Indy 500s and her last appearance was in 2013. Most recently she has competed in the Brazilian Stock Car series with such notables as former Formula One winner Rubens Barrichello.
While the Pro-Am Beatriz, Garza and Witherill will compete in is the crowning event of the Brickyard Invitational, there is also a festival of other activities. The SVRA will present exhibition runs on the storied 2.5-mile oval by a wide variety of cars including several of the crowd-favorite 1950’s Indianapolis 500 “roadsters.” The 2016 weekend not only promises a huge gathering of race cars but also some of the finest collector cars. Motostalgia, with offices in Austin, Texas, Mexico City and Monaco will stage an auction of select automobiles from around the world. The Brickyard Invitational will also expand out onto the world-famous infield IMS golf course with car corrals for organizations and clubs united by special marques and vintages as well as its “Shine and Show” car show. Saturday evening entertainment will include a concert by the legendary rock band, “Three Dog Night,” capped off by a trademark SVRA mega-fireworks show.
The SVRA has 11 groups of racecars spanning 100 years of vintage machines. The array of entries at IMS will include select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and Le Mans prototypes as current as 2011. Race fans can enjoy every minute of the action with overnight camping inside IMS. Pro-Am cars and drivers will also participate in a Fan Walk through the starting grid prior to the opening ceremonies allowing spectators to see the cars up close, take photos and chat with the drivers. All entry fees will be donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Foundation and the Hagerty Education Program.
Brickyard Invitational ticket information: Fans can order Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational tickets for all or any one of the four days of the event online through the Speedway or by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Fans can also visit the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at 4790 West 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. Children 12 and under are admitted free each day when accompanied by an adult. Tent camping passes in the IMS infield start at $30 and are available all four days.