“Uppity” Documentary Details Willy T. Ribbs’ Racing Career

Los Angeles, CA — A new documentary about the man who broke auto racing’s color barrier is the latest offering from Adam Carolla’s Chassy Media.

Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story — released on Netflix Wednesday (Feb. 5) — details the career of the first African-American racing driver to win a Trans Am race, test a Formula One car and compete in the Indy 500. Ribbs has said that other racers and their mechanics referred to him as “uppity” when he was trying to break into racing in the United States in the 1970s, and he used the taunt as motivation.

The documentary was co-directed by Carolla and Nate Adams, who also directed The 24 Hour War and Shelby American: The Carroll Shelby Story. In addition to Ribbs, it includes interviews with Wally Dallenbach Jr., Bernie Ecclestone, Dan Gurney, David Hobbs, Paul Newman, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr., Robby Unser and Humpy Wheeler. Watch the trailer.

Ribbs won the Formula Ford series in England in 1977, then returned to the U.S. in 1978 to pursue his dream of racing in the Indy 500. Humpy Wheeler, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, attempted to put Ribbs in a NASCAR racer, a move that proven unpopular with many southern segregationists. Ribbs never competed in that race.

He turned his attention to Trans Am, where he won multiple races and became the series’ rookie of the year in 1983.

Ribbs went on to run other NASCAR events in 1986, and made bigger news that year when he became the first African-American to drive a Formula One car. He tested for the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham team in Portugal.

The following year, Ribbs drove for Dan Gurney in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GT Championship series and won four races.

In 1991, he qualified for and ran in the Indy 500, becoming the first African-American to race at the Brickyard.

Bonus: Listen to RACER colleague Marshall Pruett’s interview with Ribbs last November as part of Pruett’s ongoing podcast series.