William "Willy" Theodore Ribbs, Jr. (born January 3, 1956 in San Jose, California) is an African-American racecar driver who competed in many forms of auto racing. After retiring, he became a sport shooter in the National Sporting Clays Association.
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. NASCAR owner Will Kronkite hired Ribbs to drive his Winston Cup car, but fired him after Ribbs skipped two practice sessions, replacing him with Dale Earnhardt. 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 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 test a Formula One car, with the Brabham team in Estoril, Portugal.
In 1990, Ribbs joined the CART circuit in a car owned by comedian Bill Cosby. Ribbs had two top-10 events that season, and in 1991, he became the first African-American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He raced there a second time in 1993. After being released from the team in 1994, he continued in the CART series with another team, finishing in the top 10 at Michigan International Speedway and Denver Grand Prix races.
In 1999, Ribbs raced in an Indy Racing League event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing 26th after a crash. After three top-10s in the SCCA in 2000, Ribbs signed to drive the #8 Dodge Ram for Bobby Hamilton Racing in the Craftsman Truck Series. Driving 23 out of 24 races, Ribbs had a best finish of 13th, and finished 16th in points.
In May 2006, a newspaper column by Jason Whitlock of Knight-Ridder quoted Ribbs detailing his criticsm of NASCAR and his lauding of the Indianapolis 500. Ribbs created controversy by referring to NASCAR as Al-Qaida, "Neckcar", and the WWE.
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."
- ↑ Keith Collantine (2006-09-24). "First black Formula One driver...", F1Fanatic.co.uk. Retrieved on 2006-09-24.
- ↑ Mercury News (Dead link; article is referenced in detail at Motorsports Soapbox blog (June 3, 2006): "Willy T. Who?" by Dave Moody
- Official Website
- Dallas Morning News (May 23, 2006): "Where Are They Now? Indy 500 driver Willy T. Ribbs now shoots for the top", by Chuck Carlton
- NASCAR statistics
- The HistoryMakers
- New Neighborhood Voice Newsletter (May 1, 2005): "Willy T. Ribbs, a Racecar Driver in Transition", by Dan Gentile. Ed. 26, Sec. 1