Vintage Indy Cars will have presence at Pocono IndyCar 500

Date: 7/4/2014 2:21:52 PM

Vintage Indy Cars will have presence at Pocono IndyCar 500

By DINO OBERTO … “Keeping Track”


During this weekend’s Pocono IndyCar 500 Fueled by Sunoco, past meets the present as an excellent array of vintage Indy Cars will be part of the festivities.

Last year a small group of restored and replica Indy Cars were on display along with several Midget and Sprint cars. It was a big hit among fans and even drew the attention of the contemporary drivers as well as former stars in attendance such as Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Rahal and Mario Andretti. The cars even got track time.

“Last year we had an incredible influx of the classic drivers come over. And this year we are honoring Bob Harkey. Bob is the Grand Marshall of our event. When you celebrate the careers of these guys, we want to celebrate all the guys, not just the Unser’s and A.J. Foyt’s and Mario Andretti’s. We want to celebrate the little guys too,” said Gary Mondschein, event organizer.

“Here’s a guy that qualified for the 1964 Indy 500 in a Roadster and ran right from the Roasters and into the rear engine cars into ’80s. All these guys need to be recognized.”

Pocono Raceway COO Nick Igdalsky along with Roger Green gave Mondschein the green light last year to bring in the classic racers and looked forward to their return.

“Nick (Igdalsky) has been excessively responsive to me with this project and it’s been a pleasure to work with him. They were very happy to have us back. It was a big hit last year,” said Mondschein.

This year the entries have doubled to nearly 20. Cars from the 1930s to 1990s will be represented. An inkling of the list includes Joe Leonard’s STP Lotus wedge powered by a Pratt & Whitney turbine for legendary team owner Andy Granatelli. Don Branson’s 1965 No. 4 Wynn’s Special built by A.J. Watson and Jim Rathmann’s No. 16 Roadster Simoniz Special Watson-Offy in which Rathmann drove at Indy in 1959 and won the only Indy roadster race ever run at Daytona.

The cars will be on track twice Saturday and again Sunday before the start of the 500. In between track sessions they will be on display behind pit road.

Restoration of old Indy race cars has become big business. Each May during the Indy 500 a big event in presenting the vintage cars takes place.

“It’s actually turned into be a fairly good investment and the best indicator of how good an asset it is, recently a group of investment bankers got together and hired a guy to go out and buy specific cars, hold then and then resell them for profit. When you start to get groups of bankers together and they start buying old Indy Cars for profit, you know there’s money to be made there,” said Mondschein.

“The value of the cars is going up exponentially right now. It has to do with the pedigree of the car. If it finished in the top 10 at Indianapolis, the values are going up and up.”

Everything, whether it is an original car or a replica, is very precise and accurate right down to the smallest detail.

“Amazing amount to the details,” said Mondschein. “You have guys laying out the cars and snapping lines to get the exact details for the decals on where they were originally.”

In most cases finding original parts can be the biggest hurdle. A good search will eventually find you what you need, however for the newer cars, those from the seventies and eighties, there is reverse engineering done to produce the necessary pieces.

While the show of vintage race cars at Indinapolis is on a much broader scale, Mondschein wants his event to have a more personal feel to it.

“What we are trying to do here at Pocono is maintain a family atmosphere behind what we are doing. It’s not that we don’t want more cars, I’m not saying that at all. I want to maintain this as a family atmosphere. I would like people to come to this event and not have any pressure. We’re all buddies and friends and I would like to keep that with this group. These guys need to be treated with respect for what they’re doing. These cars are irreplaceable.”

Fans old and new can appreciate the vintage Indy Cars’ unique hand crafted bodies and the various sounds that will reverberate through the Pocono Mountains when their engines are fired up. They’ll also marvel at how far racing technology and safety have come.

What Mondschein and others like him have done is a true appreciation for the preservation of motor racing history.



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