Monday, February 10, 2014

Blacks in Motorsport

John Marine | 2/10/2014 01:55:00 AM | | |
Normally, I try to avoid posting anything related to ethnicity or nationality. Something, however, has told me to do otherwise. I want to focus on Blacks in motorsport. At least someone gave these racers a chance. At least the expensive and dangerous realm of motorsport was enjoyed by these men and women who broke several color barriers. If you are to learn anything from this blog post, one thing to know is that anyone can be a superstar (let alone in motorsport) regardless of ethnicity or nationality. Welcome to another blog post of mine!

A Special Hello...

If you are a Black person who is in any kind of motorsport- whether it's stock car racing, drag racing, sportscar racing, rally racing, motorcycle racing, kart racing, drifting, tractor pulling, or whatever... I'd like to send a special hello to you. Maybe my post will be to your liking.





--- Blacks in Motorsport ---

Let's meet some of the Black Americans who take part in racing or have been in racing before. Please note that this post concerns various forms of motorsport. These involve names past and present (and perhaps future) that have taken part in one or multiple disciplines of motorsport.

Considering a lot of the different levels of segregation and prejudice among Black Americans, a lot of past racers haven't really had many chances and opportunities to excel in motorsport. Most others just didn't really have a chance to either get into racing or succeed in racing. That's why it's important that I think we should honor Blacks whom have competed in motorsport. Motorsports are both expensive and dangerous, yet there were those who gave Blacks the time of day and the chance to shine. Some thrived. Some didn't. Some could have reached unfathomable levels of success but failed to really shine. Speaking as a Black person myself, I created this blog post to highlight on some of the many different Blacks in various disciplines of motorsport.


Inspiration for This Post.

A lot of people don't really know of some of the Black racers in motorsport. I, myself, am a Black person. However, I always think of myself more as a human being and an American before labeling myself a Black American (or African-American). We usually designate February as Black History Month here in the United States. We honor and celebrate Black personalities whom have contributed to American (and even world) history. Though February is Black History Month, I did not specifically want to post this just because it is Black History Month. I actually wanted to post about this topic for quite some time, but never released this post until now.

Previously, I covered females in motorsport, because I want to make light on some of the females who are involved in some capacity of motorsport. I want to do the same for Blacks in motorsport. This is a chance to recognize various Blacks in racing.


Could There Be More Blacks in Motorsport?

I entirely think there can be more Blacks to get into motorsport. I don't know... maybe not as many are into racing so much or can't access racing so easily. Racing isn't as easily accessible as gridiron football or basketball among my people. Despite these challenges, you have to credit the ones who were given the chance and did their best to succeed in motorsport. So lies the premise of this blog post- a look at various Blacks in motorsport. I hope you enjoy this post.



--- Blacks in Motorsport ---

This post doesn't include all Black racers, but it does feature as many different Black racers from various disciplines of motorsport. Any personality with a hyperlinked heading has a website you can visit. They may be either official sites or some other kind of material. Be sure to visit them to get social with their work. Visit their sites to learn more about them. If there are some I haven't done enough to properly feature, you are free to use your favorite search engine and learn more about them yourself. Still, I will do as much as I can to at least introduce you to each of the various personalities.

Most of the facts and figures I've pulled up come from various YouTube videos, Wikipedia, and various other websites. I may add more names in future edits.


Willy T. Ribbs.

Willy T. Ribbs is one of the most influential figures in American racing. He was one of the first Blacks to drive a Formula 1 race car. His portfolio of racing goes through the likes of NASCAR, Indy cars, Trans-Am, and even sportscar racing. Willy has even taken on the challenge of the Indy 500. His first attempt at being the first African-American racer to successfully qualify in the Indy 500 was in 1985. He pulled out of the Indy 500 qualifying because he didn't feel right. Even though he pulled out, no Black racer has ever toured Indy before Willy T. Ribbs took his circuits around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though he didn't feel right in 1985, he returned to Indy in 1991 and successfully qualified for the 1991 Indy 500. Unfortunately, his Buick engine gave out five laps in the 1991 Indy 500. To paraphrase LeBron James, Willy T. Ribbs took his talents to Europe to compete in the Dunlop Stars of Tomorrow, where Willy raced in England against the likes of future F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell. He won his first race in the Dunlop Stars of Tomorrow in only his second series race. He then went on to win 6 of 12 events that season. I would argue that he is perhaps among one of the top figures among Black racers about as much as Carroll Shelby has been one of the top figures in racing and automobiles. Any Blacks who want to be the next best racing superstar need only look at Willy T. Ribbs as primary inspiration. Speaking of inspiration, here is an interview of Willy T. Ribbs:


^ "An Interview with Willy T Ribbs"


Bill Lester.

Bill Lester has spent many a year touring different disciplines of motorsport. He is best known for his career in NASCAR. Bill Lester's racing career has even taken him through the ranks of sportscar racing. He even took part in the Rolex Sportscar Series (now merged into the United SportsCar Racing Series) racing a Daytona Prototype. The native of Washington, D.C. earned my full respect for being so talented as a racing driver. Bill Lester's non-racing credentials include being an engineer and a former executive for Hewlett-Packard (or HP).


Chase Austin.

Chase Austin was born in Eudora, Kansas. The (born: October 3, 1989)-year old has been racing in NASCAR in both the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. He doesn't yet have a start in Cup (or as I'm aware). Chase Austin even has taken part in open-wheel racing by racing in Indy Lights.


Darrell Wallace Jr.

In 2013 at Martinsville Speedway, (born: October 8, 1993) Darrell Wallace Jr. became the first Black racer to win in any of NASCAR's top series since the late Wendell Scott in 1963. The Alabama-born "Bubba" Wallace is a young up-and-coming racer. He's had a number of victories prior to his breakaway win in NASCAR Trucks, as he's won several times in NASCAR's K&N Pro West Series as well as in karting. Watch Darrell Wallace Jr. take his historic victory at Martinsville with this video:


^ "Darrell Wallace Jr. Wins Martinsville - NASCAR Camping World Trucks 2013"


Bobby Norfleet.

The well-traveled Bobby Norfleet has been racing everything from stock cars to drag cars and even motorcycles. The native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA ran only one race in NASCAR's top series when he ran in 2000 in NASCAR Trucks. Sponsorship and some poor luck has made Bobby Norfleet not become as active in the NASCAR ranks. He even was a team owner in 2005. Lots of controversy surrounds Bobby Norfleet.


Tia Norfleet.

It is somewhat rare to have Black racers. Even more so to have a Black female racer. Tia Norfleet is the daughter of Bobby Norfleet. She is a black stock car racer. Even she knows what keeps racers afloat in today's landscape of racing- money and sponsors. The ultimate dream for Tia Norfleet would be to compete and start in NASCAR's top three series. With this level of determination, only time will tell whether or not Tia Norfleet will be a powerful enough figure to reach the pinnacle of NASCAR. There is controversy about Tia Norfleet, in that some say her racing credentials are overblown- stats and figures about her that are more than what she has actually accomplished. She is from Norfolk, Virginia, USA.


Nicole Lyons.

Meet Nicole Lyons- a Black drag racer. She became the first Black driver to compete in the NHRA's Pro Stock class. Besides drag racing, she even became the first Black woman to compete in and finish a NASCAR Modified Series race. Nicole Lyons Racing is capable of almost anything.


James "Bubba" Stewart.

James "Bubba" Stewart (also nicknamed JS7) is a supercross racer that races only one way- hard. He is one of the most successful motocross or supercross racers today, having won a couple of championships in AMA Supercross. I like James Stewart. This guy just brings it every race and is quite fearless. Even in defeat, he just seems impervious to fear. I would also say he's the most successful active Black racer in the world in any discipline of motorsport today. He was born in Bartow, Florida, USA. Just like myself, he is a Capricorn (born December 21, 1985). This video showcases some of his talent:


^ "James Bubba Stewart fights from last place to first"


Malcolm Stewart.

Could Malcolm Stewart be a champ like his older brother James? He very well could. Malcolm Stewart currently is an AMA Supercross racer in the 250cc class.


Rickey Gadson.

In the drag racing ranks, Rickey Gadsen is one of the fastest drag racers on two wheels. He has competed in the NHRA Pro Stock Bike class. Gadson is a ten-time drag racing champion and one of the winningest racers in NHRA history. He's been all over the world both racing and performing. In fact, I'd say that for as much as Willy T. Ribbs has been an influential figure in motorsport, Rickey Gadson is one of the most influential in drag racing.


Antron Brown.

Another Black drag racer is Antron Brown. Unlike Rickey Gadson, Antron Brown did his damage on four wheels rather than two. He was the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel champion. He raced motorcycles prior to joining the top fuel drag racing ranks. In his career, Antron Brown suffered a brutal crash in 2013 at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA. Even still, Antron Brown is the first Black American to win a championship in the NHRA.


Reggie Showers.

Reggie Showers is a drag racer who is also a double amputee. The native of Philadelphia, PA, USA suffered his injury after an electrical accident he suffered in his mid-teens. That didn't stop him from becoming a two-time World Champion in the IDBA (International Drag Bike Association). Reggie retired from drag racing to become a motivational speaker. If you have time on your hands, here is a video about Reggie Showers. You may want to turn the volume up a bit:


^ "The Powerful Story of Reggie Showers NHRA Pro Stock Bike Racer"


Malcolm Durham.

Malcolm Durham went where very few have ever gone- over 200 mph, that is. This NHRA Drag Racer was one of the first true Black superstars in the NHRA. He raced a handful of series ranging from Super Stock to funny cars to Pro Stock. Malcolm Durham left racing so he could get his sons into college. He would return in 1985 to do some more racing. Sadly, Malcolm Durham would pass away in 2006 due to a long-standing illness.


David Sims Jr.

Star of the future? That's what you want to believe with Californian kart racer David Sims Jr. He took his first victory in September 2006 racing in the Kid Kart class of the RAS sanction. David Sims Jr. captured his first karting championship in 2008 in the RAS California State Asphalt Oval championship. He would win a few more championships along the way in karting. Star of the future? Very much so, if you ask me.


Joie Ray.

(Born: September 29, 1923)-year old Joie Ray has raced in NASCAR and various forms of sprint car racing. He had raced between 1947-1963. The native of Louisville, Kentucky has been racing in NASCAR as well as in USAC. Joie was the first Black American to be licensed by the American Automobile Association (now AAA). To be honest, I think it's great he was fortunate enough to race in his era considering there was still a great deal of segregation and prejudice among us Black Americans. You have to give him some credit on this front. He is no doubt a true legend and a true inspiration. You even have to credit the team owners and such who actually gave him a chance to shine. Joie Ray died in 2007 at the age of 83 from pneumonia.


Jason Britton.

Jason Britton is one of the most grizzled veterans of stunt riding. The Speed Channel show "Super Bikes!" was where I first got to be introduced to No Limit Motorsports' Jason Britton. Prepare to be blown away by this dude with this video (SPOILER ALERT: the final part of the video is ruined):


^ "Jason Britton at 2012 Stuntwars Round 1"

Wow! That's all I can say! Needless to say- don't attempt any of those stunts!



Wendell Scott.

Danville, Virginia was where one Wendell Oliver Scott was born on August 29, 1921. He was the first African-American driver to win a race in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His lone victory came in 1964 at the Jacksonville 200. He died in 1990 from spinal cancer at the age of 69. He was nominated into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012. The movie "Greased Lightning" was loosely based on the career of Wendell Scott, with Richard Pryor playing as Wendell Scott.


Cheryl Glass.

Cheryl Glass was a midget racer. She was born on December 24, 1961 (yay! Another Capricorn!) and is from Seattle, Washington, USA. Cheryl died on July 15, 1997. She has been the only real Black racer to compete in USAC as well as the first to win an A-Main in the series. There was potential for this Cheryl to race in the Indy 500 and perhaps even test the waters of Formula 1. Neither happened. Her winning of national championships in the midget sprint ranks speaks to the level of success she enjoyed.


Now for some Black racers NOT from the United States...

Lewis Hamilton.

Former Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton became the first Black racer to win the F1 World Championship when he triumphed in 2008. I personally remember this race and how crazy it was. Felipe Maasa won the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. Amid the exhalation of Maasa winning, Lewis Hamilton needed only finish 3rd or better to win the F1 World Championship. Despite the pouring rain, Hamilton finished high enough to win the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. It was a crazy race. And to this day, I still think Lewis Hamilton is one of the brightest and most talented race car drivers today.


Axcil Jefferies.

Zimbabwean race car driver Axcil Jefferies won a great deal of races and championships. He's won in his native Zimbabwe as well as become the first person of color to win racing championships in South African. He made his American racing debut in Indy Lights in 2013 for Bryan Herta Autosports. He got a Top 5 in that race. I'd say he's Star of the Future material.


Tschops Sipuka.

Starting racing in 1998, Tschops Sipuka (Tschops pronounced like "Chops") has been around the world and competed in a number of different championships and races. Along the way, he has won many championships in his native South Africa and abroad. Tschops has been the first person of color to win a number of championships and certain races. To learn more about Tschops Sipuka and his racing career, visit his website that I've posted with this section.


I may add more personalities if I learn more about them. If you want to contribute, you may contact me online and let me in on some more personalities you think I should feature in this blog post.



--- Blacks in Motorsport: Honorable Mentions ---

A few others I want to make mention in regards to Blacks in motorsport in any sort of capacity...

• Michael Jordan - owner of Michael Jordan Motorsports, a motorcycle team that used to race in AMA Road Racing. Word has it that MJM is looking to compete in World Superbike or even MotoGP.

• Brad Daugherty - ESPN NASCAR analyst, NASCAR team owner, and former basketball star.

• Dhani Jones - former gridiron football player who was a host of Season 3 of GT Academy USA.


Special Consideration.

Just when I thought I was done completing this blog post originally, I realize one specific YouTube channel offered me more inspiration to post about and learn about more racers to fill this blog post. And so, I want to thank Starting Grid Inc. for introducing me to more personalities so I could fill up this blog post. SGI is an organization designed to bring more minorities into the realm of motorsports. It was founded in 1994 by Chris Miles. Here is a video profile of Starting Grid Inc.:


^ "FOX Sports profiles Starting Grid, Inc. and the Gary Community School Corporation"

For more information on Starting Grid Inc., please visit their official website at: www.startinggrid.com.


I may add more drivers and personalities to this list in future edits. If there are any other Blacks in motorsport that you think I should feature, please contact me online and tell me about certain personalities that I should feature in my post. Thank you!





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1 comments:

John Marine said...

Great post, I knew about Hamilton but not the others, it's really interesting to discover these new names!

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