Go carts and Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis 500 and go carts. Miles apart? Actually, they’re more similar than you might think. Go carts are so high tech now that they provide a great way to hone professional driving skills, says Willy T. Ribbs, the first African-American driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Ribbs will share his experiences as a trailblazing racing car driver Thursday, Feb. 16, as part of TCC’s African-American Heritage Month Celebrations at Northwest and Southeast Campuses.
The speedy buggies are “an inexpensive way to learn how to race wheel-to-wheel with someone and to understand the feel of racing in terms of quickness, turning ability, acceleration and response,” Ribbs said. “A lot of race drivers in the off-season have very high-tech carts just to stay in shape.”
Ribbs considers himself fortunate in that he knew from the time he was 9-years-old that he wanted to be a professional driver. An early decision was easy because he had been around the sport all of his life, watching his father pursue his hobby.
“My Dad was racing motorcycles and race cars back in the early ‘50s. He couldn’t race professionally and run the family business,” Ribbs said. “Our dinner table conversation was all about racing, so I was already up to speed when I entered the sport.”
Ribbs’ 20-year-old son is following the path of his winning father by establishing himself as a champion in his father’s hobby — shooting. Theo, who started competing when he was 12, is seen by some as the “Tiger Woods” of shooting, Ribbs said.
“The shooting industry has been very good to him. When I came into racing, it was a struggle,” said Ribbs, adding that the strength of the sport in Texas was a major reason they relocated to Texas from California. “The shooting industry has given him carte blanche, sponsoring him and giving him performance equipment that’s needed.”
Learn more about Ribbs and the impact a call from actor, author and activist Bill Cosby had on his career by catching his speeches on Thursday. Ribbs will speak from 10 to 11 a.m. on Northwest in the Student Center, WSTU 1303, and from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. on Southeast in the North Ballroom.