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Willy T., Sevadjian Make Amends To Win VROC Charity Pro-Am at IMS

Two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Willy T. Ribbs and amateur teammate Edward Sevadjian endured an eventful final 15 minutes to win the Vintage Race of Champions (VROC) Charity Pro-Am presented by Chopard Watch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 3.

“We did it, and It feels good,” said Ribbs, the first African-American driver to qualify for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” “To win anything at Indy, one of the greatest racetracks on this Earth, the biggest racetrack – it’s a big deal. I did it with a great car and some great sponsors.”

Last year, Ribbs and Sevadjian had a dominant car but bowed out with a mechanical issue after 15 laps. That made the last 15 minutes even more nerve-racking for Sevadijan, who started the race second on the grid and drove the first seven laps as required of the Pro-Am rules.

“It’s a huge relief,” he said of the win. “It was a stressful race and very close. I’m glad that it went down to the end like it did. We took care of the car and it was great.”

2000 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Bobby Labonte and Gary Klutt finished second on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at IMS. Boris Said and Jim Caudle teamed up to finish third and round out the podium finishers in the feature event of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.

“Fortunately, my co-driver Gary put it up there in a good spot for me, and I was able to take over when we made our pit stop and run a steady pace,” Labonte said. “It was a lot of fun. These guys do a lot of great work, and it’s so awesome to be able to drive their cars.”

Ten-time Indy 500 starter Geoff Brabham and amateur driver Peter Klutt dominated the early stages of the race, starting from the pole and jumping out to the early lead. After the driver change, Brabham chased down Ribbs for the lead, making the pass down the frontstretch. Brabham held a consistent two-second lead. But after 19 laps, Brabham was forced to relinquish his lead and enter pit road with a mechanical failure – for the second straight year.

Ribbs inherited the lead again and was well ahead of 2000 Brickyard 400 winner Labonte in second. However, a spin by Roberto Guerrero in Turn 1 brought out a full-course caution with 10 minutes remaining in the 50-minute race and bunched the field.

Ribbs took the green flag and immediately pulled away from Labonte. He stretched his lead to more than two seconds when Lyn St. James hit the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 14. The wreck brought out the caution and forced the race to end under yellow. St. James climbed from the car and was transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for further evaluation.

The race featured racing legends and amateur teammates competing in Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs from between 1963 and 1972 in SVRA’s “Group 6” A and B Production classes.

No longer its own event, the charity pro-am race that began at “The Racing Capital of the World” in 2014 has now turned into its own series within SVRA – The Vintage Race of Champions. The other two racetracks to host VROC races are Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Virginia International Raceway.

All three races in the series benefit a charity. The Brickyard Invitational Charity Pro-Am benefits the Morgan Adams Foundation. The Morgan Adams Foundation supports laboratory and clinical research for pediatric cancer, which an emphasis on tumors of the brain, spine and central nervous system.

While Brabham was disappointed to lose a chance at victory in the VROC Charity Pro-Am due to mechanical trouble, he did stand on the podium Saturday. 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Brabham finished second in the first race of the weekend for SVRA’s Group 2B. He posted the quickest lap of the race in his 1971 Brabham BT35-26 and finished just .130 of a second behind winner Ron Hornig, also in a 1971 Brabham BT35.

In the first feature race for SVRA Group 6, Big Machine Label Group Founder, President and CEO Scott Borchetta was victorious in his No. 05 1972 Chevrolet Corvette. Big Machine is the title sponsor of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line NASCAR race Sunday, Sept. 8 at IMS.

SVRA racing in multiple classes will continue starting at 8 a.m. (ET) Sunday. The feature event Sunday is the 75-minute TA2 class race for the Trans Am by Pirelli series, which starts at 2:45 p.m.

Fans can order Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational tickets at IMS.com or by visiting the IMS Ticket Office. Children 15 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

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