Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) announced today that three open-wheel racing aces – Al Unser Jr., Willy T. Ribbs, and Max Papis – have entered the “American Racing Legends Charity Pro-Am Presented By RACER Magazine” at Virginia International Raceway on September 22. All three versatile drivers are Indy 500 veterans and have NASCAR competition on their resumes. The three drivers join a field loaded with NASCAR veterans, including Cup champions Bill Elliott, and Bobby Labonte, as well as Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, Mike Skinner and road course specialists such as Ron Fellows, Boris Said, and Dorsey Schroeder.
“Al, Willy, and Max are great friends and well acquainted with SVRA racing,” said SVRA CEO Tony Parella. “All three of these champions have been on the podium of our Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am race and all have NASCAR credentials. Having them with us gives our event a wonderful IROC feel.”
Al Unser Jr. is a two-time Indy car champion (1990 and 1994) and the winner of 34 Indy car races including the 1992 and ’94 Indianapolis 500s. His 1992 Indianapolis 500 victory is the closest finish in history with a margin of just 43 ten-thousandths of a second over second-place Scott Goodyear. A versatile driver, he was a winner in World of Outlaws sprint car racing; 1982 Can-Am champion and IROC champion in 1986 and again in 1988. Unser raced in the 1993 Daytona 500 for Rick Hendrick. He’s also a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1986 and ’87. Unser was the first winner of SVRA’s original charity race, the Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am Presented By RACER Magazine in 2014.
Ribbs is a two-time qualifier for the Indianapolis 500, starting the race in 1991 and again in 1993, making him the first black driver to compete in the event. He was also the first black driver to test for a Formula One team, getting that opportunity in 1986 with none other than Bernie Ecclestone, who owned the Brabham team at the time. Ribbs also competed briefly at the top level of NASCAR as well as running the entire 2001 NASCAR Truck series season for Bobby Hamilton. Ribbs was Trans Am’s most prolific winner across three seasons, 1983 through 1985, when he scored 18 of his 19 career-total victories, including 13 for Jack Roush-prepared Mercury-Ford Capris. He was series rookie-of-the-year in 1983, winning five times and more than any other driver. After conquering Trans Am and becoming the series all-time money winner up to that point he moved to Dan Gurney’s IMSA Toyota team for two years and picked off 10 race wins.
Papis has driven in virtually every major series this side of drag racing. This includes Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy car racing, Le Mans as well as V8 Supercars and IROC. In NASCAR he raced Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Papis also started in more NASCAR races than any European driver in history, including the 2010 Daytona 500. The versatile driver competed in two Indianapolis 500s and won three other Indy car races. He competed in seven 24 Hours of Le Mans contests, scoring a class podium in five of those events along with top-10 overall finishes on four occasions. Papis also won two 24 Hours of Daytona races – including an overall win in 2002. He won the Indy Legends Charity Pro-Am Presented By RACER Magazine in 2017 and finished second this year.
In addition to the new Pro-Am, the professional Trans Am Series Presented by Pirelli Series will join SVRA at VIR during the track’s “Heacock Insurance Gold Cup” weekend. Trans Am and SVRA continue to leverage growth for both series by sharing the track at eight event weekends in 2018. This approach delivers a motorsports festival atmosphere. Fans can expect more of the Hagerty Insurance “show and shine” car corrals and a marketplace of accessory, memorabilia, art, and apparel vendors. The event includes an entire weekend of racing with hundreds of vintage cars competing in a variety of classifications.
The VIR event will benefit IGNITE – the Autism Society of North Carolina’s community center for young adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome. IGNITE was founded by The Evernham Family Racing for a Reason Foundation – a nonprofit established by legendary NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and his family. Evernham will compete in the race as an amateur. Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte, Mike Skinner, Wally Dallenbach Jr., Ward Burton and his son Jeb are among the professionals on the entry list.