But when they finally found some speed, Willy T. Ribbs knew what to do with it. He confidently pushed his Lola/Buick through the four-lap run at full throttle, missed the walls by a rabbit-hair, slammed into the corners like a fox fleeing hounds. He had four miles to spare when he took the checkered flag. If he had qualified at that speed--217.358 m.p.h--earlier, he would have been in the middle of the fourth row. Instead, he had to settle for the 10th row.
No one has ever won the race from 29th. But it has been won twice from 28th--by Ray Harroun and Louis Meyer--and Johnny Rutherford, no less, won it from 25th in 1976.
But as the Greeks used to say, the honor of Thermopylae was not the winning or the losing. It was being there.
Willy T. Ribbs will be there. Honor enough. Glory enough. He's there on his own terms. He's a historic figure. Jackie Robinson didn't win the batting title his first year. First, you break precedent, then you break records. Willy has paid his dues. He's due his pay.