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A weekend at Indy with Zenith and SVRA for the Brickyard Invitational

On June 14-18, the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) held their second annual Brickyard Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Watchonista was on-hand to cover the festivities. What followed was a memorable weekend with a few celebrity surprises.

By Josh Shanks

When Zenith invites you to a car race, you go. Especially when the race festivities include vintage racecars from the Indy/CART, F1, Lemans, and Supercar series. This was my second Brickyard Invitational, but first with Watchonista.

Zenith at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

SVRA is one of the largest hosts of vintage car races in the United States

The SVRA has been hosting these vintage racing events in North America since their founding in 1981. The organization is now one of the largest hosts of vintage car races in the United States. In addition to Indy, SVRA plans to hold contests at Road America, Sonoma Raceway, Watkins Glen, Auto Club Speedway, and Virginia International Raceway.

For the 2nd year in a row, Zenith is the official timekeeper of the Brickyard Invitational. Last year the watch’s name is now without 1969, Zenith released a El Primero Chronomaster SVRA to commemorate the partnership.

Zenith El Primero Chronomaster SVRA

Seeing a Lotus turbine-powered Indy car was transcendent

Over the course of the weekend, 500+ drivers competed in race groups ranging from the Mazda class to vintage open wheel exhibitions. If I had to choose a favorite memory from the weekend, it would be seeing the Lotus Type 56 turbine-powered owned by Bruce Linsmeyer taking hot laps around the famous Indy oval. Other memorable moments include; taking a hot lap myself around the road course and eventually the famous yard of bricks in a Jaguar F-type.

Hands-down, the main event of the weekend is the ProAm race. Where an Indy legend (i.e. a driver that has raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) partners with a car owner (“amateur”) to race a modified muscle car from the 1960s. We spotted Corvettes, Mustangs, Camaros, and some very expensive Shelby Cobras. Some of the cars involved in the ProAm were worth seven-figures and it was thrilling to see them being used for the purpose they were built for.

This year’s ProAm race saw the triumphant return of Al Unser to Indy

This year’s ProAm race marked the return of Al Unser to the track where we won the Indy 500 four times. Al Sr. hasn’t raced at Indy since 1993, and he wasn’t shy when telling the assembled media that he was “tired of the young guys having all the fun”. Other famous names in the ProAm race included; Al Unser Jr, Roberto Guerrero, Paul Tracy, Sarah Fisher, Bill Elliot, Max Papis, and Willy T. Ribbs. Instead of having these Indy legends race on the 2.5 mile oval, the race was run on the SVRA competition road course. 

Al Unser

History was made

In an unexpected twist, the ProAm race’s B division was won by Sarah Fisher and owner Kirk Blaha. Sarah is now the first and only female driver to win an event at Indy. Coming in second to Sarah was Max Papis and owner Curt Vogt. All four drivers/owners were awarded with the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster SVRA edition.

All four drivers/owners were awarded with the Zenith El Primero Chronomaster SVRA edition

As a special surprise, Zenith brought our group to winner’s circle to award the watches to the drivers. While waiting on the drivers to exit their cars, I got a tap on the shoulder politely asking me to move aside. After turning around, I instantly recognized the face. It was none other than Al Unser! He was there to see his son accept second place in the A Division of the ProAm race. Surely a special moment for a man that hasn’t been to winner’s circle since winning the 1987 Indy 500.

Zenith El PrimeroDefy  21

The El Primero Defy 21 chronograph makes an appearance

Making a special appearance over the weekend was the new Zenith El Primero Defy 21 chronograph . Zenith’s West Coast Sales Manager, Michael Pacheco was wearing a handmade prototype that he couldn’t seem to keep on his wrist due to the attention it garnered from attendees.

Zenith El Primero Defy 21

When we weren’t running around the speedway taking photos, we relaxed in the Land Rover suite high atop the Indy Pagoda. As such, it was fitting that I wore the Zenith x Land Rover El Primero limited edition over the course of the weekend. The watch performed flawlessly when I used it to time my laps in the Jaguar F-type. As it was Father’s Day weekend, Zenith was gracious enough to let me bring my Dad down from my hometown in Indiana.

Zenith El Primero Land Rover Edition

“Legends Are Forever”

I had an epiphany while wearing a Zenith watch surrounded by these Indy legends, the Zenith slogan is “Legends Are Forever”, and it was overwhelmingly apparent that the brand respects it’s past while forging new roads.

Zenith El Primero Land Rover Edition

Special thanks to Zenith Watches and SVRA for the kind invitation to the weekend’s festivities. Special shout out to Bob Koveleski of SVRA for chaperoning our group through the action-packed weekend.

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