Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Willy T. Ribbs Born In San Jose, California - January 3, 1955

January 3, 1955 
Willy T. Ribbs
(photo; openpaddock.net)
Born In San Jose, California, USA.
Ribbs father William "Bunny" Ribbs, Sr. was a plumbing contractor and amateur sports car racer, and was friends and neighbors with Indy Car driver Joe Leonard. Ribbs was nearly killed at eight years old when an out-of-control car at a race struck him. Following his graduation from high school in 1975, Ribbs moved to Europe to compete. He won the Dunlop Championship in his first year of competition. In 1977, he competed in the Formula Ford Series in England, winning six races in eleven starts. Ribbs returned to the United States in 1978, making his debut in the Formula Atlantic open-wheel series at Long Beach on April 1, finishing 10th after running as high as 4th.
(Photo; thethrottle.com)
The former driver and team owner competed in many forms of auto racing, including the Trans-Am Series, Formula Atlantic, IndyCar, CART, IMSA, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Craftsman Truck Series. Ribbs saw his most success in the Trans-Am Series, winning 17 races while driving for such names as Dan Gurney and Jack Roush, and winning the 1983 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year.

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, Portugalin in 1986. He broke the color barrier at the Indianapolis 500 in 1991, becoming the first African-American to qualify for the race.

(photo; www.indianapolisrecorder.com)
Ribbs' talent was at times limited by a lack of good equipment, and eclipsed at times by his strong personality. 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.

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. His personality and physical stature have been compared to Muhammad Ali and Ribbs once hired boxing promoter Don King to manage him.

In 1984, during a warm-up session at the SCCA Trans-Am Series season opener at Road Atlanta, Ribbs was fined $1,000 for throwing a punch at fellow driver Bob Lobenberg, afther the two drivers made contact on the track. In 1987 following a race at Portland International Raceway, Ribbs was suspended by the International Motor Sports Association for one month after throwing a punch at driver Scott Pruett. Ribbs felt that Pruett had cost him a chance at winning the race.

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."

After retiring from racing, Ribbs turned to professional shooting, specializing in sporting clays.
(Photo; nnvesj.org)
Willy T with his prized Perazzi shotgun for competitive shooting.

(Photo; globechangersmovement.com)
His son Theodore Ribbs is an aspiring sport shooter.

1 comment:

  1. He was a great driver with lots of Talent, but his
    Attitude is why he Never made it in any Racing series! It's a Shame!