Eating, Shopping, Football__________Good Times, Good Times!
Alrighty, we end our series on African Americans in Motorsports featuring Willy T. Ribbs (that is an awesome name) and Antron Brown!
Born in 1955 in San Jose, CA, Willy T. Ribbs is a living legend. 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.
In his nearly 25 years of professional autoracing, Willy T. Ribbs has acheived many firsts as the winningest African American driver in history:
- The first African American to qualify and compete in the Indianapolis 500
- Winner of the Formula Ford Dunlop Championship in Europe
- Recipient of two “Driver of the Year” titles while driving for such racing icons as Dan Gurney, Jack Roush and Derek Walker
- The first African American to compete in NASCAR’s Winston Cup series
- First African American to compete in CART/Indy Car Championship in partnership withentertainer, Bill Cosby
- The first and only African American to test for Formula 1 Grand Prix team in Estroil, Portugal
In May 2006, a newspaper column by Jason Whitlock 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.
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.
Did you know 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.”
Fuel Driver Antron Brown recently became the first black racecar driver to win a major auto racing title. The 33 year-old is now the NHRA Top Fuel Champion. Brown took the win with injured hands, after his dragster’s engine had caught fire during the earlier race on Sunday. He used his bandaged hands to make driving history. Brown won against seven-time champion Tony Shumacher, who was busy being blocked on the track by another driver, which made way for Brown’s big win.
Antron Brown grew up at the drag strip, so it’s only fitting he developed into a championship-caliber drag racer. The Chesterfield, N.J. native was raised in the quarter mile racing hot bed of the Garden State and attend races with his family at historic Atco and Englishtown, N.J. and Reading, Pa.
Brown, 33, first operated a motorcycle at four-years-old shortly after learning how to ride a bicycle with training wheels. The 16-time NHRA winner first competed at 12-years-old in an 80-cc class in amateur youth motocross. His first competitive action on the drag strip came during his senior year in high school aboard a Suzuki GSXR 1100 that Brown routinely steered at runs at 9.20 seconds at nearly 160 mph.
It was during college in 1997 that his dream of being a professional drag racer became a reality. While at his college dorm, he fielded a phone call from star NFL cornerback Troy Vincent, who asked if Brown was capable of riding a Pro Stock Motorcycle. Less than a year later, Team 23 Racing was a reality as Brown teamed with famed rider Dave Schultz, who mentored the animated rookie racer. In 10 seasons on his Suzuki, Brown amassed 16 PSM victories in 33 final rounds, 11 No. 1 qualifying awards, and twice finished second in the points standings (2001 and ’06).
After a decade as one of the premier riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Brown inked a deal with David Powers Motorsports to drive the Matco Tools dragster in 2008. Brown made a seamless transition to the Top Fuel class, earning the pole in his first career Top Fuel race at the 2008 Winternationals at historic Pomona, Calif. with a blast of 4.495-seconds. He won in just his fourth Top Fuel start by edging two-time series champion Larry Dixon in the final round at Houston Raceway Park becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win races in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle. The popular driver earned two wins in five final round appearances, along with claiming three No. 1 qualifying awards during the 2008 NHRA season en route to finishing fifth in the NHRA Countdown to 1 standings.
In 14 seasons as a professional racer, Brown has 31 wins in 63 final rounds, 29 poles and 394 round wins. He is the only driver in NHRA history to have won races and led the standings in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle.