Racing Legend Willy T. Ribbs Will Share Triumph Story of Overcoming Adversity at Upcoming SEMA Show

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At the upcoming 2023 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, a Fireside Chat is set to captivate attendees as racing legend Willy T. Ribbs shares his extraordinary story of triumph and resilience in the face of adversity. This special event will take place on Thursday, November 2, in the North Hall (Room N258), starting at 11 am. It’s a significant part of the SEMA Show Education program, focusing on leadership and year-round skill development.

Willy T. Ribbs, often referred to as “The Man. The Myth. The Legend,” will recount his incredible life journey as a pioneer in motorsports. His story is one of breaking down barriers and paving the way for generations of racecar drivers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds.

Ribbs’ career has been a testament to his indomitable spirit. He defied obstacles and etched his name in the annals of motorsports history. He has competed in various prestigious racing series, including the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, the IndyCar Series, and the IMSA GT Championship. Notably, he became the first African American to qualify for the iconic Indianapolis 500, win a major professional race in the United States, and drive a Formula One racecar.

Ribbs’ passion for racing was ignited at a young age while watching his father, William “Bunny” Ribbs Sr., a plumbing contractor and amateur sportscar racer. He also served on his father’s race team, a pivotal experience that laid the foundation for his storied career. When he ventured to Europe in 1977 to compete, the 22-year-old Ribbs made an immediate impact by winning the Dunlop/Autosport Star of Tomorrow FF1600 championship in his debut year, securing victory in six out of eleven races.

His on-track accomplishments span multiple racing disciplines, including the 1977 Dunlop Formula Ford championship, being the pole winner at the 1982 Long Beach Formula Atlantic, and being named the IMSA Driver of the Year for consecutive years in 1987 and 1988. In recognition of his illustrious career, Ribbs was inducted into the Long Beach Grand Prix Hall of Fame in 2021.

Beyond the racetrack, his story has been immortalized in the documentary “UPPITY: The Willy T. Ribbs Story,” available on Amazon Prime Video. In 2022, Ribbs assumed the role of Formula One Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion, further emphasizing his commitment to breaking down barriers and promoting diversity in motorsports.

Pamela Brown-Matthis, SEMA Director of Education, aptly describes Ribbs as a game-changer in the world of motorsports. His personal journey, marked by unyielding determination and a refusal to succumb to defeat, promises to resonate with SEMA members, offering inspiration and insights for navigating challenges in the industry.

Moderating this Fireside Chat will be Beth Paretta, CEO and team principal at Paretta Autosport. Her leadership in a team that’s the first woman-owned, woman-driven, and woman-forward team in IndyCar history adds a unique perspective to the discussion.

The 2023 SEMA Show Education Program comprises a rich array of learning opportunities, featuring 99 learning sessions, six SEMA Education tracks, the Dale Carnegie Leadership Essentials program, a Women in Automotive Symposium, an on-site electric vehicle (EV) certification program, and much more. SEMA Trade Show Director Andy Tompkins highlights the diversity of educational programs, affirming that the SEMA Show is a must-attend event for professionals seeking personal development and business intelligence.

The Fireside Chat with Willy T. Ribbs is open to all 2023 SEMA Show attendees and promises to be an enlightening and inspiring session. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from a racing legend who has broken down racial and professional barriers, demonstrating that with unwavering self-belief, anything is possible. For more information and registration details, visit Don’t miss this chance to be inspired by a true icon in the world of motorsports.


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