Chase Austin, a 21-year-old driver from Eudora, Kansas will make his rookie debut with Willy T. Ribbs Racing in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, 2011, and thus becoming the first African American to start a Firestone Indy Lights race.
Austin took his first green flag at the age of eight in a worn out little go-kart that he pieced together with his dad, Steve. Little did he or his family realize that just ten years later and barely eighteen, Austin would become the first Black driver in history to compete in a NASCAR Nationwide Series oval track event, at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Determined to earn his way up the racing ladder from the start, Austin spent his formative years competing in anything with an engine and four wheels, from tiny 900-pound midgets to intimidating 700 horsepower dirt late models. Racing exclusively on dirt, and mostly in equipment fielded by his unsponsored, family-owned team, he continued to chase the dream by earning victories in virtually every type of car he had the opportunity to drive.
He began to draw attention when, as one of the youngest in the starting field at age 13, Austin bested an invitation-only group of the country's top teenage dirt late model drivers, winning the "Future Dirt Track World Championship." In the following two years, the young talent posted more than 100 feature wins and had earned numerous Points Championships and Rookie of the Year awards in the process.
Signed as a developmental driver for Hendrick Motorsports just weeks before his 15 birthday, Austin made history as the youngest driver to secure a contract with a NASCAR team, going on to earn one pole position, two race wins and six top-10 finishes in the ASA Late Model Series that season. The program was dissolved shortly thereafter following a tragic plane accident that took the lives of several of Austin's friends and mentors from Hendrick Motorsports, responsible for driver development.
In 2007, Austin was picked up by Rusty Wallace Racing and made history as the first African-American driver to start in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race on an oval track, and only the second (after Bill Lester) to compete in series history. Austin made starts in 11 NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series races, earning four top-10 finishes while also making his first ARCA Series start. The highlight of the 2007 season for Chase was his sixth place finish at one of the most imposing and difficult tracks; the high-banked Dover "Monster Mile".
Most recently a part-time driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series, Austin also made his first open wheel start in May 2011 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in INDYCAR series sanctioned Firestone Indy Lights competition with Willy T.Ribbs Racing for the 40 lap/ 100 mile Firestone Freedom 100.