Willy T. Ribbs broke the Indy 500 color barrier, but still waits for more diversity – The Athletic


They called him “uppity,” and that was the truncated and more pleasant version of the term too often used to describe Willy T. Ribbs. In fact, it’s the name of the documentary, co-produced by Adam Carolla and Nate Adams, that tells the long, challenging story of the first Black driver ever to qualify and run at the Indianapolis 500 exactly 30 years ago, in 1991. Ribbs, now 66 and living on his ranch outside Austin, Texas, derives a certain degree of satisfaction from a term that was not always intended to be one of endearment; he was always happy to ruffle feathers, make his presence known loudly and flamboyantly, to make the kind of “good trouble” the late statesman John Lewis used to reference.

“Willy isn’t one to hold back,” said Derrick Walker, who owned the racing team that ran Ribbs’ Buick-powered Lola in ’91 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Willy doesn’t take anything from anybody.

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