I already warned Helio [Castroneves]. I saw him at dinner last week while I was in Indy. I said, ‘Hey, listen, brother. I’m f—— coming for you. First race, baby. You’re going to get some tire marks.’ – Paul Tracy
That sentiment was echoed by road racing standouts Willy T. Ribbs and Ernie Francis, Jr., who will also be a part of the star-studded SRX lineup during 2021. Ribbs said managing conflict will be just as important as managing resources such as tires during SRX races.
“You have to manage how many people you’re going to hit, too,” said Ribbs. “There’s going to be some banging, baby. I can tell you that right now. Whoever is watching this, they’re going to get a thrill.
“It’s going to be fun. That’s what people want to see. They want to see great racing. The drivers want to have fun, too. It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be serious. We’re playing for marbles.”
At 23 years old, Francis, Jr. is the young gun compared to most of the SRX lineup. However, he knows already that he doesn’t want to cross swords too often with his veteran counterparts.
“I’m hoping when my car gets drawn, I’m hoping I’m on the opposite end of the grid as Paul,” said Francis. “I’ve seen what he does in Trans-Am. He’s not afraid to use the chrome horn if he has to.”
Ribbs likened racers’ personalities to those of boxers he has met over the years, saying that many of the top fighters in the ring were also some of the nicest people you could meet – until the bell rang.
“I’ve been friends with a lot of boxers in my life. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes. They’re the nicest guys on the planet outside of the ring. You wouldn’t think they would hurt a fly, until they put the gloves on and step inside the ring.
It’ll be the same thing with the drivers in this race. They’re going to be yukking it up, ‘Sweet Caroline,’ we’re ‘kumbayah.’ It’s going to be ‘kum-bye-ass’ when that flag drops. I’m going to tell you. I hope Evernham has built enough cars. – Willy T. Ribbs
While Francis may be the upstart on the SRX roster, he has developed that killer instinct during his racing career as well, and is ready to fight with the SRX stars on-track.
“I have a lot more experience than people actually think. I’ve been racing for 20 years now, since I was four years old in go-karts. I’ve developed that mindset of being a different personality outside the race car, but in the race car, you’re ready to go. You’re focused on what you have to do.
“We’re all really competitive guys. We all want to go out and win. I don’t think anybody wants to go out there and run in the back of the field. Gloves are going to come off when you get on track.”
Tracy noted that, while everyone on the SRX roster has a level of respect and understanding for each other’s talent and successes, that isn’t going to make anyone pull any punches when the green flag drops.
“Everyone has great mutual respect for everyone. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to go out there and run hard to show them. Nobody’s coming to this thing to tool around and look like an idiot. Everyone wants to show their best.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo