Colorless at Indy 500 PART THREE

By Gary Norris Gray BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: May 24, 2011

William Theodore Ribbs Jr.

William Theodore Ribbs Jr.

OAKLAND, CA-–When television viewers looked into the large sun drenched stadium, something was missing on Memorial Day 2011. The absence of COLOR. Few African Americans attended this yearly event or even watch this gigantic event on television. The racing industry has made a half-hearted effort to change the industry but it still remains lily white and male. This is truly the last bastion of White male sports dominance.

The (IRL) Indy Racing League committee tried to woe African American fans six years ago with movie star Morgan Freemen and Indiana Pacer basketball star Reggie Miller attending the big weekend holiday event. The Indy Racing League wants to attract more fans of color but if they don’t have Black drivers to root for that can be very difficult.

It is imperative that participates in the racing circuit have corporate sponsors, a veteran pit crew, and a good driver. There are few African Americans that will sponsor Black Indy car driver.

In 1991 and 1993 William Theodore Ribbs Jr. became the first African American to drive on the famous Brickyard. Ribbs received corporate sponsorship from actor and comedian Bill Cosby in 1986. The Raynor-Cosby Motor Sports Team became the 2nd African American motor sports team in American history.

George Mack became the 2nd Black to drive the Indy and he finished 17th in 2002. He transfered to NASCAR racing when he could not raise the funds to ride Indy Cars

In 1983 William Theodore Ribbs Jr. was (NASCARs) National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing pro rookie of the year. Ribbs won many races but never won the big Indy 500 prize. He placed 29th in 1991, did not place in 1993, and got bumped (pushed out) in 1994.

William Theodore Ribbs Jr.

William Theodore Ribbs Jr.

Not a single African American has placed in the top ten at Indy in there 100 year history. African American drivers have a very difficult time getting behind the wheel of any IRL race car because of the financial responsibilities.

The fact still remains that there are few African American drivers participating in IRL competitions around the world.

In the meantime, only one female driver has captured the spotlight. The American wonder woman, Dianica Patrick, led the pack of thirty three Indy cars in 2005. She led the race for 19 laps certainly this was an outstanding achievement. Ms. Patrick made a statement. She ended the race in fourth place without gas in her car. Ms. Patrick captured the whole world including me for two and half-hours. The television ratings proved it with numbers that doubled. Indy Car racing was on its deathbed and Ms. Patrick revived it. The whole country discussed the Indy 500 in 2005.

The popularity in 2005 has faded because Patrick has only won one race and that was in Japan three years ago. She even drove Stock cars at the NASCAR circuit. Patrick has also tried her hand at modeling and TV Commercials which lead many in the racing world to start thinking that she is not serious about her racing career.

The first African American female, Nicole Lyons races in what they call Funny Cars, the (NHRA) National Hot Rod Association Circuit. She won the NHRA Lucas Motor Oil Division One Race number seven at Phoenix, Arizona. This was a week after her mentor and her father’s death in 2006. Lyons now owns her own company and continues to race. Nicole Lyons also mentors other minorities in hot car racing at her school in Southern California .

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Copyrighted 2011@ Gary Norris Gray- Gray Leopard Prod.