The “Gas Man” to Flag “Indy Legends” Pro-Am Race At IMS
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) today announced that another giant of Indianapolis 500 history will be recognized at its June 11-14 Brickyard Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Tom Sneva, nicknamed by fans and press “The Gas Man” for his all-out, record-breaking driving style will serve as Honorary Steward during the four day speed festival. Among his duties will be to serve as starter and wave the green flag for the second running of the “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am race last year won by Al Unser Jr.
The 1983 Indianapolis 500 champion started the historic race 19 times and boasts what is indisputably one of the most impressive lists of accomplishments at IMS. His Texaco sponsorship in his winning drive triggered his famous nickname, fitting his reputation for the high-speed daring he put on display in 1977 by becoming the first man to qualify for the “500” at over 200 MPH. That feat won him the pole, an accomplishment he earned two more times in 1978 and ’84. The Motorsports Hall of Fame Driver (2005) was also fastest qualifier in 1981 but started 20th because rules at the time put him behind those who cut their speeds on their first attempt. Sneva also finished second three times in 1977, ’78 and ’80.
The Gas Man’s driving prowess extended beyond the Brickyard in a career that included 14 poles and 13 victories in Indy car competition. He was Indy car champion under USAC in 1977 and 1978 driving for the renowned Penske Racing. Sneva, a former high school math teacher, earned his racing chops on short tracks driving sprint cars in the Pacific Northwest. He raced in top-tier NASCAR events eight times, earning a seventh in the 1983 Daytona 500.
“I heard a lot about this deal, the Brickyard Invitational, last year,” Sneva said. “I decided to check it out first hand this time around. From everything I see it looks like Tony Parella and his people put on a first-rate event real race fans enjoy.”
Like last year, the SVRA, America’s premier vintage racing organization, is presenting the “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am as a return to competition for veterans of the Indianapolis 500. The event is a 40-minute race of American muscle cars on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course on Saturday, June 13. The SVRA expects to attract a field of 33 Indianapolis 500 veterans. All the veterans will be in 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of “Group 6,” with an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches. Professionals will be paired with amateur drivers, splitting stints at the wheel at their discretion.
This week the Pro-Am field continued to swell – now at 10 entries – with the addition of three more drivers, all participants in 2014. These are: Robby McGehee, Pete Halsmer and Eliseo Salazar. A two-time starter in the Indianapolis 500 Pete Halsmer had a highly decorated career in sports car racing. He won six Trans-Am races, two International Motorsports Association (IMSA) GTO championships and three class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona. Salazar won the final race of the 1997 Indy Racing League season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A versatile talent, he also competed in Formula One, Le Mans and World Rally Championship racing. His results at the Indianapolis 500 are impressive with two front-row starts and finishes of third, fourth, sixth and seventh. McGehee, a five-time starter in the Indianapolis 500, won the race’s 1999 Rookie-of-the-Year trophy.
The Indy Legends Pro-Am is the crowning event of the Brickyard Invitational but there is literally a festival of other activities. Like last year, the storied 2.5-mile oval will be utilized with exhibition runs by a wide variety of cars including several of the crowd-favorite 1950’s Indianapolis 500 “roadsters.” The 2015 weekend not only promises a huge gathering of race cars but also some of the finest collector cars. Motostalgia, with offices in Austin, Mexico City and Monaco will stage a June 12 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.
The SVRA has 11 groups of race cars spanning 100 years of vintage machines and all will be at IMS. The array of entries include select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and Le Mans prototypes as current as 2009. 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 fans to see the cars up close, take photos and chat with the drivers. All entry fees will be donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum Foundation.
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.