Willy T. Ribbs will come out of retirement to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights round of the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend.
“I wanted to honor Willy the best way I knew how,” said his friend and business partner Chris Miles of Starting Grid, Inc., who is also a fellow principal at Willy T. Ribbs Racing. “To me, I don't think a lot of people remember what Willy meant to minorities who aspired to be involved in the motorsports industry. Having him race in Baltimore is my way of saying, ‘Thank You!'”
Miles' company, Starting Grid, Inc., facilitates opportunities for minority participation within all facets of the motorsports industry. Through a partnership with American Honda, Starting Grid, Inc., facilitated the formation of Willy T. Ribbs Racing. The team debuted this past May in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with driver Chase Austin (ABOVE).
A key emphasis behind Ribbs' coming out of retirement is to garner additional exposure for Starting Grid, Inc.'s diversity initiatives, in hopes of securing additional funding for Willy T. Ribbs Racing moving forward.
"I know the naysayers may believe that this is actually a conflict of interest, and that Willy doesn't need to negate the further development of Chase Austin and Starting Grid's newest driver, Wyatt Gooden, but that could not be further from the truth,” continued Miles. “This is truly a celebration of Willy's accomplishments and talent, and his active participation is very necessary for us to receive this exposure for our continued growth."
Although the 56-year-old Ribbs needed a bit of a nudge, it wasn't too difficult for Miles to convince him to return after a decade out of the cockpit.
“Even though I have been out of the car for 10 years, I have never ‘officially' retired,” said Ribbs. “Chris said he got the idea for me to race again when he heard Wally Dallenbach say during an IndyCar broadcast that he was going to drive a Lights car in Edmonton. For whatever reason, Wally didn't do it, but the more Chris kept talking to me, the more I got pumped up about racing again, and Baltimore is the perfect place to do it.
"I'm sure the consensus will be that I should not be racing against these young guns, but as Chris reminded me, when the [Sprint] Cup boys come down and race in the Trucks and Nationwide Series, no one seems to mind. So I told Chris, ‘Done deal, I'm in!'”