Willy T. Ribbs

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Willy T. Ribbs
WillyTRibbs.jpg
Ribbs in 1984
Born (1955-01-03) January 3, 1955 (age 59)
San Jose, California, United States
Achievements 1976 Formula Ford Dunlop Championship Champion
Awards 1983 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
3 races run over 1 year
Best finish 65th - 1986
First race 1986 First Union 400 (North Wilkesboro)
Last race 1986 Miller American 400 (Michigan)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 0 0
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career
23 races run over 1 year
Best finish 16th – 2001
First race 2001 Florida Dodge Dealers 250 (Daytona)
Last race 2001 Auto Club 200 (California)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 0 0
Statistics current as of March 20, 2012.
IndyCar Series career
1 race run over 1 year
Team(s) McCormack Motorsports (1999)
Best finish 47th - 1999
First race 1999 Vegas.com 500 (Las Vegas)
Wins Podiums Poles
0 0 0
Champ Car career
46 races run over 5 years
Years active 1990-1994
Team(s) Raynor Motorsports (1990)
Walker Racing (1991–1994)
Best finish 17th - 1991
First race 1990 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Long Beach)
Last race 1994 Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey (Laguna Seca)
Wins Podiums Poles
0 0 0

William "Willy" Theodore Ribbs, Jr. (born January 3, 1955 in San Jose, California) is a former racecar driver and owner who competed in many forms of auto racing, including the Trans-Am Series, IndyCar, Champ Car, IMSA, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Craftsman Truck Series.[1] After retiring, he became a sport shooter in the National Sporting Clays Association.

Ribbs saw his most success in the Trans-Am Series, driving for such names as Dan Gurney and Jack Roush, and broke the color barrier in the Indianapolis 500 in 1991. Ribbs' talent was at times limited by a lack of good equipment, and eclipsed at times by his strong personality.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Ribbs won the SCCA Trans-Am race at Portland International Raceway in 1983.

Ribbs grew up in San Jose, California as one of five children in a middle class family. His father Bunny was a contractor and amateur racer. Ribbs was nearly killed at eight year old when an out-of-control car at a race struck him. As a teenager, Ribbs would take his car out in the California mountains at high speeds, frequently stopped by police for reckless driving.[3] Following his graduation from high school in 1975, Ribbs moved to Europe to compete in the Formula Ford Series. He won the Dunlop Championship in his first year of competition, then returned to the United States.[2]

Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler entered Ribbs to drive a NASCAR Winston Cup car owned by Will Cronkite in the 1978 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. After Ribbs skipped two practice sessions and was arrested for evading police when he drove the wrong way down a one-way street, Cronkite replaced him with future champion Dale Earnhardt.[4]

Ribbs went on to race Formula Atlantic cars, winning the pole in the Long Beach Formula Atlantic race in 1982. The following year, Ribbs won five races in the SCCA Trans-Am Series and was honored as Pro Rookie of the Year.

Ribbs' made his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in 1985, which ended in controversy when during testing he topped out at 170 miles per hour while other rookie drivers were running laps above 200 miles per hour. Ribbs proceeded to withdraw from the race altogether. The deal had been put together in part by boxing promoter Don King with sponsorship from Miller Brewing Company, but with a second hand Cosworth machine from Arie Luyendyk.[5]

Ribbs would attempt NASCAR again in 1986, running three races in the #30 Red Roof Inns car owned by DiGard Motorsports. His best finish came at his debut, a 22nd at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Also in 1986, Ribbs became the first black person to drive a Formula One car, when he tested for the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham team at the Autódromo do Estoril, Portugal.[6] Ultimately, Ribbs was not given the drive for the upcoming season. Lewis Hamilton became known as the first and only driver of black heritage to compete in an F1 championship.

Ribbs driving at Laguna Seca in 1991

In 1990, Ribbs joined the CART circuit in a car funded in-part by comedian Bill Cosby.[7] Ribbs had one top-10 event that season. Also in 1990, Ribbs was involved in an unfortunate incident during the Molson Indy Vancouver where a track marshal was killed. The track worker, Jean Patrick Hein, was pushing another car off the track when he darted in front of Ribbs' car, was run over, and killed.

In 1991, he became the first African-American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.[8] He raced there a second time in 1993.[9] In 1994, he continued in the CART series with the team, finishing in the top 10 at the Michigan International Speedway[10] and New Hampshire International Speedway[11] races.

In 1999, Ribbs raced in an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for McCormack Motorsports as a try-out to join the team full-time in 2000.[12] However he crashed on lap four and finished in 26th and last place. After three top-10s the Trans-Am Series in 2000, Ribbs signed to drive the #8 Dodge Ram for Bobby Hamilton Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.[13] Driving 23 out of 24 races, Ribbs had a best finish of 13th, and finished 16th in points.

In May 2011, Ribbs announced he had formed Willy T. Ribbs Racing to campaign former NASCAR driver Chase Austin in the Firestone Indy Lights' Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which would coincide with Ribbs' 20th anniversary of breaking the color barrier at Indy.[14]

Controversy[edit]

Ribbs had received criticism for his strong personality during his career, sometimes from other African Americans in auto racing. Black car owner Leonard T. Miller felt Ribbs was not the best representative of the black community due to his outspoken nature.[1] Ribbs has also spoken negatively about his experience in NASCAR. In May 2006, a newspaper column by Jason Whitlock of Knight-Ridder quoted Ribbs detailing his criticism of NASCAR and his lauding of the Indianapolis 500. Ribbs created controversy by referring to NASCAR as Al-Qaida, "Neckcar", and WWE.[2][15][16]

In 1987, Ribbs was suspended by the International Motor Sports Association for punching fellow driver Scott Pruett in the face after a sports car race. Ribbs, who finished second, felt Pruett cost him a chance at winning the race.[17]

Trivia[edit]

In the Disney Channel cartoon The Proud Family, Penny Proud and her friends attend "Willy T. Ribbs Middle School," where the mascot is the "Racer."

American open–wheel racing results[edit]

(key)

PPG Indycar Series[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Rank Points
1984 Doug Shierson Racing LBH
PHX
INDY
Wth1
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
MCH
ROA
POC
MDO
SAN
MCH
PHX
LAG
CPL
NC -
1985 AMI Racing LBH
INDY
Wth2
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
MCH
ROA
POC
MDO
SAN
MCH
LAG
PHX
MIA
NC -
1990 Raynor Motorsports PHX
LBH
20
INDY
MIL
DET
20
POR
CLE
MEA
23
TOR
27
MCH
DEN
26
VAN
10
MDO
27
ROA
NAZ
LAG
13
26th 3
1991 Walker Racing SRF
LBH
PHX
INDY
32
MIL
DET
11
POR
CLE
22
MEA
10
TOR
MCH
DEN
6
VAN
21
MDO
ROA
10
NAZ
17
LAG
12
17th 17
1992 Walker Racing SRF
PHX
LBH
INDY
DET
POR
MIL
NHA
TOR
MCH
CLE
ROA
VAN
MDO
NAZ
LAG
25
57th 0
1993 Walker Racing SRF
PHX
LBH
INDY
21
MIL
11
DET
12
POR
16
CLE
27
TOR
18
MCH
10
NHA
15
ROA
12
VAN
16
MDO
11
NAZ
19
LAG
28
20th 9
1994 Walker Racing SRF
18
PHX
28
LBH
18
INDY
DNQ
MIL
25
DET
16
POR
25
CLE
12
TOR
21
MCH
7
MDO
28
NHA
10
VAN
25
ROA
24
NAZ
18
LAG
11
22nd 12
1 Did not appear
2 Withdrew from rookie orientation

Indianapolis 500[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish Team
1984 DSR-1 Cosworth Wth Doug Shierson Racing
1985 March 85C Cosworth Wth AMI Racing
1991 Lola T9000 Buick 29 32 Raynor Motorsports
1993 Lola T9200 FordXB 30 21 Walker Racing
1994 Lola T9400 FordXB DNQ Walker Racing

Indy Racing League[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Rank Points
1999 McCormack Motorsports WDW PHX INDY TXS PPI ATL DOV PPI LVS
26
TXS 47th 4

Indy Lights[edit]

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Rank Points
2011 Willy T. Ribbs Racing STP ALA LBH INDY MIL IOW TOR EDM1 EDM2 TRO NHM BAL
13
KTY LVS 29th 17

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Wilson, Kevin A. (January 9, 2005). "Minority Report: Where Did All The Progress Go?". Autoweek.com. AutoWeek. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Corcoran, Tully (February 21, 2014). "Willy T. Ribbs took to the track and always fought back". Fox Sports. Fox Sports. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "The First Black Among Top Race Car Drivers, Willy T. Ribbs Is Aiming to Become World Champ". People.com. People. September 26, 1983. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Ribbs' wrong turn helped open door for Earnhardt". Sporting News Wire Service. May 20, 2008. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  5. ^ Glick, Shav (April 19, 1987). [articles.latimes.com/1987-04-19/sports/sp-2090_1_sports-car-driver "WILLY T. RIBBS : Controversial and Aggressive Driver Is Better Known for His Failures, but His Record Shows He Can Win, Too"] Check |url= scheme (help). The Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Keith Collantine (2006-09-24). "First black Formula One driver...". F1Fanatic.co.uk. Retrieved 2006-09-24. 
  7. ^ "INDYCAR: Willy T. Ribbs: One Of A Kind, Pt 2". SpeedTV.com. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Graves, Gary. "Ribbs, Indy 500's first black driver, breaking ground again", USA Today, May 25, 2011. WebCitation archive.
  9. ^ "INDYCAR: Willy T. Ribbs: One Of A Kind, Pt 5". SpeedTV.com. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "1994 Marlboro 500". Champ Car Stats. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "1994 Slick 50 200". Champ Car Stats. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Willy T. Ribbs to compete at LVMS, Las Vegas Sun, September 16, 1999, Retrieved 2010-07-31
  13. ^ Rodman, Dave (December 13, 2000). "Willy T. Ribbs to run Dodge: Dodge inks Ribbs, BHR for diversity initiative". motorsport.com. Auburn Hills, Michigan: motorsport.com. Retrieved 3 September 2014. 
  14. ^ Graves, Gary, Ribbs, Indy 500's first black driver, breaking ground again, USA Today, May 25, 2011
  15. ^ Moody, Dave, "Willy T. Who?", Sirius Speedway Blog, June 3, 2006, Retrieved 2010-07-31
  16. ^ Whitlock, Jason, Willy T. Ribbs loves Indy, loathes NASCAR, Mercury News, May 26, 2006, Retrieved 2010-07-31
  17. ^ Baker, Chris (August 6, 1987). "Motor Racing : Riding Out Suspension Is Another First for Willy T. Ribbs". The Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 

External links[edit]