56-year-old Willy T. Ribbs returns from retirement in the Firestone Indy Lights race at Baltimore and will be blogging for RACER.com pre- and post-race.
Did you know that when a horse is slaughtered, half of it is used for dog food, while the other half is used for glue? Just think of me as a horse. I used to have my saddle on, but for the past 10 years I've just been out in the pastures with my head down and my tail wagging. Content, but somehow, at the same time, discontented. Well, it wasn't long before I started to smell glue drifting on the horizon. As if that weren't enough, I started to hear a bunch of hungry dogs barking, too. That's all it took for my ears to perk up and I knew I needed to trot on back to the stable to grab my saddle again.
I may be 56 years old, but let me tell you something, it ain't my time to be glue.
When my buddy Chris Miles first came to me with the idea of getting behind the wheel again, I didn't even want to hear about it. Chris runs a diversity initiative program for motorsports called Starting Grid, Inc., and has always been on my case to get more involved. My racing career was a chapter in my life that had passed and I just really didn't want to have anything to do with it. But when I dug deep down, I did. And I'm so glad I realized that.
Back in May, I decided to form my team, Willy T. Ribbs Racing. On our team is Chase Austin, a Starting Grid, Inc. athlete. When Chase told me he wanted to go to NASCAR I knew that wasn't the right route for him. I knew he belonged in IndyCar. Lo and behold, this year Chase became the first black driver to race in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. I'm definitely proud to have had a hand in that kid's life. That's what it's all about.
So Baltimore is this weekend for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. It's going to be a lot of fun racing with these kids. And yes, I say “kids” because all of them – literally all of them – are young enough to be my own kids. Just this morning I was tweeting back and forth with Derek Daly's son Conor. (Yeah that's right, I tweet, too). He had tweeted that his dad ought to join me out there on the racetrack. I told him to tell his dad to get his butt back on the track then and why not, he was a fine driver in his day! It's going to be a true challenge to see what the Depends crowd can do versus the Huggies crowd, but I'm ready!
Back in my day, there was so much excitement around IndyCar. We rocked and we rolled, it was just a fun time zooming around the track. It was about so much more than just sponsors and investors. The track was the place to be, and I want to bring that attitude back. I want a powerhouse!
It was earlier this summer when I was in Iowa meeting with Chris that I realized the potential our team had to become that powerhouse. Though the Iowa race didn't go very well for us, it gave me the motivation to develop that potential in other young minority racers. So I am going ahead with Chris' plan to collaborate our passions and our strengths. I am now proud to represent Starting Grid, Inc., and American Honda on the streets of Baltimore.
In the months leading up to the Baltimore Grand Prix, I've been in the gym almost every day on a solid fitness regimen. For 56, I'm in pretty darn good shape. I've been karting, boxing, doing long sustained cardiovascular workouts...it's been great.
In the Air Force, they used to say, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” Evidently the Air Force isn't familiar with my work. I'm like Vegas lights and I'm about to come back like Rocky did. A little older, a little more wrinkled, but them old girls with gray hair are going to be throwing their garters at me and I can't wait!
Seriously though, it's about to get loud.
Willy T. Ribbs drives for Willy T. Ribbs Racing. For more on Willy, visit www.WillyTRibbs.com or follow him on Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/WillyRibbs.