Jimmy Vasser hopes he can return to the Verizon IndyCar Series in a team ownership capacity.
The former co-owner of KV Racing Technology, which disbanded this past offseason, found himself in an unfamiliar role for May’s 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. After nearly three decades of driving or being involved as a car owner, Vasser was a spectator.
“I just watched. I didn’t have a duty,” Vasser said last week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) as he prepared to drive in the Indy Legends Charity Vintage Pro-Am race. “It was pretty strange, the first time in many years – geez, I think maybe 25 years – that I haven’t been at least on the radio or behind the wheel.”
The eight-time Indianapolis 500 starter was back at IMS for the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s fourth annual Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational. Vasser and teammate Matt Parent drove a 1969 Corvette Roadster to a seventh-place finish in the B class.
Longtime friend and former driver Paul Tracy suggested Vasser participate in the SVRA event, which had 33 former Indy 500 starters including four-time winner Al Unser and two-time winner Al Unser Jr.
“I called Jimmy and told him he needs to come do this and have some fun because he and his dad were hot-rod guys and they’ve always been into this kind of stuff,” Tracy said.
“And I called my dad and he’s here,” Vasser said, introducing Jim Sr., whose drag racing in Washington introduced his son, then 5, to motor sports.
Vasser attended the Indy 500 on May 28, but was like a duck out of water. He started watching the race from a suite in the Panasonic Pagoda, a guest of Jay Frye, INDYCAR’s president of competition and operations. It “was pretty cool, I’d never been up there,” Vasser said of the suite. Then the competitive bug bit.
“I started watching the race there in the Pagoda suite, then I wandered down to pit lane and then I went to my car and sat in there with the air conditioning a little bit and listened to the [Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR] Radio Network. And then I finished watching the race on pit lane,” he said.
Vasser, 58, last drove an Indy car in 2008 in a 233-race career highlighted by a 1996 championship driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, 10 victories, 33 podiums and eight poles. He became a driver/team co-owner in 2004 and the team celebrated seven victories, including Tony Kanaan’s Indianapolis 500 triumph in 2013.
Vasser openly admitted he would like to return in an ownership capacity.
“Yeah, of course, in the right situation,” he said. “We had some leftover sponsors from KV when we shut down in the winter. We placed them with Sebastien [Bourdais] when he moved onto Dale Coyne [Racing] and they wanted to stay involved with Sebastien. I’ve been at a few races this year, helping the transition of those sponsors,” he said.
“In the right situation, racing is in the blood, right, but not just to participate and be out there. We’ve got our eyes open and there are a couple of potential opportunities, but it’s still up in the air at this point,” Vasser added.