LEXINGTON, Ohio – The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 will campaign the third African-American driver in the Indianapolis 500.
A.J. Foyt Racing, in conjunction with Starting Grid principal Chris Miles, announced that 22-year-old Chase Austin will drive an A.J. Foyt Racing entry in an attempt to qualify for the 2013 race through a partnership with American Honda. Race Day is May 26.
Last year, Austin was the first African-American to compete in Firestone Indy Lights for Willy T. Ribbs Racing, including a start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Firestone Freedom 100.
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Ribbs (1991, ’93) and George Mack (2002; started 32nd and finished 17th) are the other African-Americans to take the green flag in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” In an event-record 35 starts as a driver, Foyt won the 500 Mile Race in 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977. He also started from the pole four times and, following his retirement from driving in 1993, his team won the race in 1999 with driver Kenny Brack.
“My son (team director) Larry and I have watched Chase drive and we want to give him a chance,” said Foyt, whose team runs a full-season IZOD IndyCar Series car with driver Mike Conway and ABC Supply as the primary sponsor. “What I like about him is that he has driven all types of race cars with different horsepower in his career, and I believe that’s important when evaluating talent. He’s done a real good job in the Lights series, and I believe he can qualify for the Indy 500 with Honda on board.”
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Austin, from Eudora, Kan., added a 10th place in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis in May and recorded a career-high eighth place at Iowa Speedway in June with Juncos Racing.
“For me to say that I am anything other than excited about this opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with A.J. Foyt Racing and Honda next year would pretty much be an understatement,” said Austin, who started competing in go-karts when he was 8. “However, at the end of the day, I will have a job to do and that is what Chris and A.J. will be expecting out of me.
“I want to thank my parents, my family and friends who have been supporting me all these years, and a big thank you to Chris for believing in me and providing this incredible opportunity. I cannot wait to spend more time with A.J. When I met with him in Iowa, he started sharing some of the best stories. I really don’t know what to expect come May, but you can bet we will have a lot of fun.”
The program is the continuation of a three-year motorsports diversity initiative between Starting Grid and American Honda.
“It is incredibly gratifying for me to have Starting Grid associated with such an American racing icon,” Miles said. “I am extremely proud for Chase to receive this tremendous opportunity to race for A.J. Foyt Racing as well. Chase has performed admirably with his limited experience in open-wheel cars, and I am completely confident in Chase’s ability to settle into the big cars with no problem.
“Words simply cannot express how appreciative I am for American Honda’s support of our motorsports diversity initiatives over the past two years, and I am thrilled to have the defending Indy 500 winning engine powering us toward history.”