The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Racing pioneer talks inspiration

By Amanda Marshall/reporter

Many people have someone in their lives who inspires them to be the best they can be.

For Willy T. Ribbs, it was his grandfather who taught him “the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.”

Ribbs was the first African-American to qualify for and compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the first African-American to compete in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series.

In his Feb. 16 presentations on NW and SE campuses to more than 100 students, Ribbs described what went through his mind during his career as a professional race car driver.

“Life didn’t matter at all,” he said. “You’re in the race, or you’re gonna die.”

Ribbs said he attacked his racing career with the mentality of “being in it to win it.” Spending his high school years on his grandfather’s ranch, Ribbs said his grandfather instilled the idea that “with life, you’ve got to succeed.”

Ribbs left high school without enough credits to graduate, but he did enroll in a junior college.

His racing career became big when Bill Cosby called Ribbs to support his entry in the Indianapolis 500.

The month of the races at the Indy 500 was like “living life through the lenses of a camera.” As he sat in the cockpit, photographers would push their lenses through, searching for a sign of trepidation, anxiety or disbelief, he said. He described the experience as both a mental and physical struggle for the competitors.

Ribbs gave the audience some life advice.

“Keep doing well and never take no for an answer,” he said.

He encouraged students to pursue the goals and dreams they had.

A student asked Ribbs if he finds it hard to abide by the legal driving speed limits after spending so many years racing.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to explain to the highway patrol officers,” he joked.

Ribbs retired from racing in 2001.

He is currently mentoring former NASCAR driver Chase Austin and serves as the biggest supporter for his son Theo Ribbs, a professional sporting clay champion.

Donate to The Collegian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tarrant County College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Collegian