Thursday, June 6, 2013

If Bo Knows Indy Cars, then Where Did Chase go?

A.J. Foyt poses with Chase Austin as his legendary team announces entry for the young aspiring black racer in their second car for the 2013 Indy 500. (Source: indycar.com)
Now that A-L-L of the euphoria over this year’s just concluded Indy 500 is diminishing, and we’re off to Detroit, which used to hold some barn-burner Trans Am races, including the likes of Willy T amongst the ranks, I felt it was time to let this story fly the coop...

As I find it interesting how Alabama has an affinity for having a diverse selection of Grand Marshal’s for its annual IndyCar race, as this year’s selection Bo Jackson was infinitely better then last year’s overly long winded Bart Starr; CUT! I SAID CUT GAWD DAMN IT! GO TO COMMERCIAL... WTF? He’s still talking? Oh Never Mind!

Thus Bo was the polar opposite of Mr. Starr, as the ex-multi Pro-leagues (NFL/MLB) star was instead strapped into the back seat of thee “Fastest Seat in Showbiz” and instead just did a stoic version of Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines! While I’ve previously mentioned how I found Leigh Diffey’s one liner ‘bout which is better Bo: running over Brian Bosworth or riding behind two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk? The Quip of the Barber weekend...

As my favourite memory of Bo Jackson isn’t his mockery of Brian (“the Boz”) Bosworth, when Bo ran so fast that he raced into the locker room tunnel when galloping roughshod over the entire Seattle Seahawks defense... Nope! Mine is when Bo nailed two homeruns into the 300-level nosebleed Kingdome seats squarely at the offending sign that read “Bo knows your Grandmother!”


And thus this curiosity over the completely taboo and hushed disappearance of Chase Austin from his aforementioned B-I-G CARZ ride aboard A.J. foyt’s second entry, the No. 41 since occupied by another rookie from Noblesville named Conor Daly has been on my mind for quite awhile now - whilst the perceived colour barrier at Indianapolis was only jolted further to the top of my memory banks upon finally seeing the epic 42 movie recently! Which left me pondering a whole lot of more question’s about the apparent lack of Diversity in Open Wheel Racing...

As the movie 42 so brilliantly displays how all consuming the horrific racism covered our society immediately after World War II by Wendell Smith’s asking Jackie Robinson: “Do you ever wonder why I sit on the third base line with a typewriter on my knees in the stands?” As I was totally bamboozled over the fact that African Americans weren’t allowed in the nation’s media centers, nee press rooms of the day...


And thus, by my very unscientific count, there have only been four Black American racecar drivers to ever race at Mother Speedway over her 104year history, with this startling lack of competitors being almost infinitesimal!

Willy T. Ribbs
DOB: 1/3/55; USA
Age: 58
Indy 500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 21st
Years: 1991, 1993

Although the casual racing fan would be quick to point out that “Louise ‘JAGUAR” Hamilton is the first black F1 driver, that honour actually belongs to William Theodore Ribbs instead, who beat the young Lewis to the punch by some two-plus decades when he took a spin aboard one of Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham-BMW’s ‘Wayback in 1986, albeit only for testing purposes, as Ribbs wasn’t offered the ride by Uncle Bernaughty.

Yet Ribbs is best known for becoming the first African American to not only successfully qualify for the prestigious Indy 500 but race at the Speedway, which he did so for the fledgling Walker Motorsports entity in 1991 - as I can still recall seeing various teams crew members clapping and “High-fiving” Ribbs as he rolled down Pitlane after making the show...

Ribbs rolled off P29 from the middle of Row-10 upon qualifying his McDonald’s backed Lola/Buick at a speed of 217.350mph and was one of five rookies that year which included: Jeff Andretti, (11th) Mike Groff, (18th) Buddy Lazier (23rd) and Hiro Matsushita, (24th) who became the first Japanese driver to qualify for the 500. As Ribs finish would be less spectacular - finishing 32nd after his Buick Done Blown Up on lap-5...

Willy has always been a brash figure, who’s early machismoism reportedly got him into being black listed by team owners, having been put on suspension for once punching an opponent. Yet Ribbs has also been given some breaks by the likes of Jim Trueman, the Ford Motor Company and Dan gurney to name a few - with Bill Cosby becoming his IndyCar benefactor before moving onto an abortive  IRL audition, a less than stellar NASCAR renaissance along with a season in PickemUp Trucks before ultimately retiring from motorsports, albeit making a brief comeback upon a One-off Indy Lights appearance at Baltimore aboard his own team’s No. 75 entry which was created  primarily to run his protégé Chase Austin.

Thus, its too bad that Ribbs won’t get to see Austin racing at the Brickyard upon the twentieth anniversary of  his final race in the Indy 500 - with Ribbs having been completely overshadowed by “Mansell Mania,” not to mention another subpar finish being classified as 21st-place - running, albeit six laps down...

George Mack
DOB: 7/21/68; USA
Age: 44
Indy 500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 17th
Year: 2002

Really don’t know anything about this one ‘N done  (year) IRL driver, nor this mythic motorsports team 310 Racing he drove for during the 2002 campaign, as dare I say I-T? The Indy Racing League was desperate for competitors to fill its field, and after 310 Racing disbanded the following season due to lack of finances, Mack was never heard from again, albeit he was somehow linked to Curry Racing - as in the same Larry Curry? Which we’ll not dote upon Messer Curry who’s definitely got a spotty motorsports career, eh? As wisely Mack wanted nothing to do with Curry Racing as its third Hombre in the 2006 Craftsman Trucks series and has simply vanished from the racing scene after his lone outing at the Speedway eleven years ago...


Lewis Hamilton
DOB: 1/7/85; United Kingdom
Age: 28
World Championships: 1 (2008)
Fastest laps: 12
Poles: 27
Wins: 21
Years: 2007-Present

What more can I say about the young “Louise ‘JAGUAR” Hamilton that hasn’t already been said. As the Ron Dennis prodigy, who ultimately delivered the ‘Ronster’s final World Championship to date, has made what appears to be a somewhat brilliant move to Mercedes this year as  his Woking based competitors continue floundering.

Hamilton’s rise to the top was meteoric to say the least, having caught his racing bug by winning an RC championship as a ‘wee lad, before winning multiple Karting titles en route to progressing to single seaters, where Lewis won more titles in Formula Renault, F3 Euroseries and ultimately the GP2 crown in his debutant 2006 season.

Hamilton burst onto the F1 scene in ’07 much to the chagrin of teammate and reigning Double World Champion Fernando Alonso, who he effectively blew into the weeds! As Hamilton completed his North American “Double” by claiming the first two victories of his Formula 1 career by “Breaking his Duck” in Canada prior to dominating the ’07 USGP at Indianapolis, sadly its final race.

Thus obviously, Lewis is simply the most talented of our quartet of black racing drivers, who most likely was aided by being the only European whose gifted racing abilities were backed by McLaren’s Ron Dennis at the precocious age of 13! As I believe it’s rumoured that Hamilton’s grooming to F1 cost a cool $5m, which none of our other drivers have likely had such financial backing during their formative years...


Chase Austin
DOB: 10/3/89; USA
Age: 23
Freedom 100 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 9th
Years: 2011-12

Its too bad that Chase Austin has never gotten a proper chance to prove himself in either Stock Car or Open Wheel Racing, as the Kansas native seemingly is another prodigy waiting to be tapped - having won some 60-odd Go Karting events in his youth, and a total of 100-plus “W’s” in Karts, Sprints and Stock Cars.

And shame on Rick Hendrix, who after signing the 14-year old Austin to a driver developmental contract and running him in ASA competition, pulled the plug upon the program the following year. And ditto for Rusty Wallace who also signed the young talent to run him in the Busch series before also shutting down its program for Austin, who saw limited action between 2007-10 in both the NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Trucks series before finding himself out of a ride permanently.

Thus in 2011 in regards to his mentor’s twentieth anniversary of making the B-I-G RACE at Indianapolis, Chase was tapped to drive the No. 75 Willy T. Ribbs/Brooks Associates Indy Lights entry in that year’s Freedom 100, as the entry was co-managed by Chris Miles, Ribbs and Michael Brooks with financial backing largely from American Honda.

Austin started second from last in P17 and ultimately finished ninth in his Indy Lights debut - with that year’s winner being Joseph Newgarden en route to the series title.

For the 2012 Freedom 100 Austin ran for Juncos Racing, starting 16th and finishing 10th, before having his glitzy press conference alongside A.J. foyt in August to announce that he’d be graduating to the B-I-G CARZ for the 2013 Indy 500 as part of Honda’s continued Diversity campaign.

Yet as we all know, Chirp-Chirp, has anybody seen Chase? The deal went horribly sour as speculation suggests that Chris Miles failed to deliver the necessary funding for the project, albeit I’d swear I heard Conor Daly claiming it was nice to be getting paid for once - instead of needing to bring the requisite funding for his IndyCar debut at the Speedway. Which if true, seems a bit odd that the Austin deal didn’t come to fruition - or was this just simply a convenient way to dump the lesser known Austin in favour of the more talented Daly? As obviously we’ll never know, although I still say it seems odd that Honda didn’t help see I-T through.

Yet perhaps in hindsight, this is the best move possible for black racing drivers at Indianapolis - since where would it have led to if Austin had less than a stellar outing? And even then this was simply a “One-off” race as apparently NO IndyCar, nor Indy Lights team owners for the matter have exactly been knocking on Austin’s door recently, eh?
Yet it still would have been refreshing to see Austin racing in the Indy 500 this year and hence, hopefully we’ll see him there in the near future...

A.J. Foyt to enter Chase Austin in 2013 Indy 500

UPDATE
This “toothy” Youtube video was released by Starting Grid Inc (SGI) on Monday, May 20th - apparently in an effort of Damage Control,”  (would Y’all wanna buy a used car from this guy?) as I’d heard that this would be happening a day prior to it’s going “viral.” Thus Chase Austin’s Open Wheel career apparently will have a slight renaissance, since it appears this is just a “One-off” race which I’d say is largely to “Save Face,” eh? (For the various parties involved in this Foopah...)

As Bryan Herta Autosports dusted off one of its old Indy Lights chassis in order to insert Chase into the No. 28 for the Freedom 100 - where Austin qualified ninth and finished eighth in a field comprising of a paltry eleven entries... As Chase ran a solo race virtually all day at the back, albeit it was his first time in a Lights car since last year’s Freedom 100 and I don’t think he’s exactly gotten a ton of seat time lately!

 Word came after the Indy 500 weekend (from an unconfirmed source) that reportedly Austin will run a second Indy Lights race at Iowa this season, which it’d be nice if it could help jump start his stillborn Open Wheel Racing career, with even perhaps a potential path to an eventual running of the Indianapolis 500 one day in the future...

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