Old news by now, but certainly worth mentioning.
Chase Austin, a 21-year-old driver from Kansas, has announced his intention to run the 2011 Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway aboard the No. 75 Willy T. Ribbs car on May 27.
Ribbs, a two-time entrant in the Indianapolis 500 ( as a driver), has developed his own Indy Lights team with the assistance of Starting Grid Inc. principal Chris Miles and Brooks Associates Racing — the team which won the 2008 Atlantic Championship.
Austin, the squad’s driver, who has a fairly diverse background in fender racing, will make his open-wheel racing debut on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Just ten days into the month of May, he strapped into a Lights car at Chicagoland Speedway attaining his oval rookie license. Three days later, he was lapping the No. 75 car around the famed Indy circuit preparing for the upcoming race.
While his pace indicated just how big of a leap this transition is, Austin’s excitement for this new style of racing — and willingness to learn — likely topped the charts.
Austin spent the last two season’s working to break into the NASCAR scene making starts in both the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series. Last fall he had high hopes of a ride in the ARCA Series. It was not to be.
As the options dwindled, he began to look at other options; namely Indy Lights.
On March 19, he tweeted:
Still working on a Nationwide deal but it is a struggle. I have a potential ride in another series (not stock cars) so I’m keepin the faith!
Then on April 5, …another hint on Twitter:
Check out the Firestone Indy Lites race this weekend on Versus. I’m kinda getting interested in Indy cars. :)
It’s unknown if Ribbs, Miles, Austin and Brooks Associates will reunite for a follow-up race, or if this weekend’s Freedom 100 will be a one-off event.
Drivers will take to the track Thursday for practice and qualifying. The Freedom 100 is set for Friday.