LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) – Chase Austin has a chance to make history. A.J. Foyt and his racing team would like nothing better.
Austin will try to become only the third African-American driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 after being selected by Foyt to drive his entry in the 2013 racing classic.
“When I get to Indy, that might be a different thing, I might be, like, `Oh, no!”‘ Austin said with a laugh. “But I believe I’m ready.”
The 22-year-old Austin has been racing since he was 8 years old. He became the youngest driver to sign a driver-development contract in NASCAR when he was 14. He has driven in several series, most recently Indy Lights.
Although he has yet to drive at the highest levels of the sport for very long, Austin was seen as a promising newcomer by Foyt, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Austin has raced in six NASCAR Nationwide Series races, three in the Truck Series and four in Indy Lights.
“He’s run some stock cars, he’s run some sprint cars, he’s run the dirt – he’s run a lot of races in different types of cars and go-karts,” Foyt said. “He’s won in a lot of different race cars.”
Austin’s big shot at Indy came as a result of talks between Chris Miles of Starting Grid, an advocacy group for minorities in motor sports, and Foyt Racing’s Larry Foyt, son of the former driver and day-to-day head of his racing team.
“I have some friends from the Kansas area who were watching (Austin) coming up and winning everything at the local tracks,” Larry Foyt said. “Then back in February, I told Dad, `Hey, you need to watch this kid.”‘
Miles is encouraged by the future of minorities in racing and believes Austin will be a success in one of America’s iconic car races.
“We’ve had that privilege of having Chase represent us extremely well,” he said. “I just knew that Chase was the guy.”
The arrangement between Foyt Racing and Austin, announced by A.J. Foyt during qualifying for this weekend’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, is most likely limited to the Indianapolis 500. All sides deflected questions about other races and tests.
If he qualifies for the Indianapolis 500 next May, Austin would follow in the footsteps of Willy T. Ribbs, the first African-American driver at Indy in 1991, and George Mack (2002).
Austin said he did not feel the weight of others’ expectations.
“No, because I really thought to myself, `What’s the worst that can happen?’ If I don’t make the race, that’s something that happens to a lot of people. But I have the opportunity to race for A.J. Foyt at Indianapolis. That’s what I’m really going to concentrate on.”