Time to break out the Ali Shuffle because the Superstar Racing Experience just got uppity. On Wednesday, SRX announced Willy T. Ribbs as the sixth driver for the new spec racing series set to kick off in 2021.
“Thanks @SRXracing family for adding me to the All-Star cast,” Ribbs tweeted. “In the words of Mills Lane or Marvin Gaye, ‘Let’s Get It On’!”
The 65-year-old Ribbs is a name that set milestones for black racers. Before Lewis Hamilton, Ribbs was the first black driver to test a Formula One car when he did a session in 1986 with Bernie Ecclestone‘s Brabham team. In the American ranks, he competed in IndyCar and NASCAR, the former of which included becoming the first black Indianapolis 500 competitor in 1991.
Much of his racing success came in the Trans-Am Series where he won seventeen races from 1983 to 1987, followed by a two-year, ten-win stint in IMSA for Dan Gurney and Toyota. However, perhaps what especially made him stand out was his polarising and outspoken personality, one that drew fans and critics. In 2020, he was the subject of the Netflix documentary Uppity.
After ending his regular driving career, he continued to race on an occasional basis in vintage cars. In 2019, he and co-driver Ed Sevadjian won the Vintage Race of Champions‘ Charity Pro-Am race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Incidentally, fellow SRX driver Bobby Labonte finished behind him in second.
SRX is a stock car series with identically-prepared vehicles. Ribbs made four starts in the NASCAR Cup Series in 1986 (also failed to qualify twice) with a best finish of twenty-second, while he finished sixteenth in the 2001 Truck Series standings after running the full schedule.