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VIR pro-am produced quality race, memories / September 27, 2018

The Charity Pro-Am event at Virginia International Raceway Saturday produced quality racing action, along with a flood of memories produced by one of the top motorsports fields in recent history.

And the efforts went to a worthy charity, the IGNITE - the Autism Society of North Carolina’s community center with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome. IGNITE was founded by The Evernham Family Racing for a Reason Foundation. Ray Evernham paired with Boris Said to win the 50-minute charity lap race.

The field had staggering racing credentials, and everyone involved combined race-day professionalism with common sense in the action that featured a variety of high dollar vintage cars.

The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association worked hard to put on a show for the fans. The amateurs got to turn laps with the veterans.

Dave Handy was paired with Bobby Labonte in a Cobra SDF.

Handy had done a lot of laps around VIR. He called it amazing to be paired with Labonte.

“Amazing experience with these guys. It’s unbelievable, the guys that are in this room. …. These guys, I watched my whole life on TV. Now, I get to go race with them,” said Handy.

Labonte, a former NASCAR champion, jumped at the chance to reunite with an all-star cast.

He enjoyed telling stories and reconnecting with some of his former competitors. Labonte finished 15th.

NASCAR icon Ron Hornaday said he was really mad about coming down here and doing this, noting, tongue in cheek, that it’s going to prod him to purchase one of the vintage cars.

Willy Ribbs was paired with Jay Carley and the duo finished 13th, seventh in the A-production class. Ribbs appreciated the cause.

Ribbs became the first African-American competitor in the Indianapolis 500. “You go there to win races; you don’t go there to make history,” said Ribbs, a part of the fabric of the Brickyard history. Ribbs had a consequential career and competed in Trans Am, Indy Car, Champ Car and the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series.

“We did it; it was a great career. We won a lot of races in other championships. It was fun,” said Ribbs.

Al Unser Jr, cherished his participation in the pro-am event. The former Indy 500 winner celebrated the afternoon.

“It’s was a dream come true, winning Indy. I grew up with my dad and my uncle having success there. It was something I wanted since I eight years old,” said Unser.

Ron Fellows, who brought considerable road racing expertise to the field, had never raced at VIR. VIR came on the calendar after Fellows retired.

Fellows had performed NASCAR testing and some production work at VIR, but not in a competitive mode.

Fellows said VIR is a great track, and was happy to be involved in a tremendous cause for charity.

Local race expert Garland Ricketts was part of the Halifax County/South Boston fan base visiting VIR.

“It’s real interesting. It draws all these name people here. I think it’s a great thing,” said Ricketts.

“It’s a little different flavor here, but the (racing) basics are still the same,” said Ricketts.

“People go about it a little differently than they do in stock car racing, but both take a great deal of effort to be successful at it,” said Ricketts.

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