Supporting IndyCar film about the life of black racing driver Charlie Wiggins

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His racing career did not survive long enough to be allowed to compete on the track his talents deserved, but legend Charlie Wiggins has stood the test of time.

Next spring, the life of the man nicknamed “Speed ​​King”, who has won three times a race created by the Association of colored tracks set to compete with the Indianapolis 500, will be adapted from an Emmy-winning documentary and a best-selling feature book titled “Eraced.”

IndyCar and Firestone have signed as partners on the film, which will be produced by Ed Welburn, a former General Motors executive, and Madisun Leigh of Welburn Media Productions. In particular, IndyCar will help with physical production, marketing and promotion opportunities during the production phase, which is expected to begin in spring 2022. IndyCar is also expected to help promote the film around its release.

Charlie Wiggins and his wife, Roberta.

Wiggins was born in 1897 in Evansville, and by the 1920s he had started to turn heads in the Midwest for his keen sense of everything to do with racing cars, from designing them to build them, repair them or, of course, pilot them. But despite his reputation, the segregation rules of the time forbade him to participate in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Instead, Wiggins raced with the CSA, the organization behind the annual 100-mile Gold and Glory Sweepstakes, which he won in 1926, 1931, and 1932. It was the same event where his running career was. cut short, when he was caught in a massive accident during the 1936 race – resulting in the amputation of one of his legs.

A story that “needs to be told”

When not racing, Wiggins could often be found in a garage in the Indianapolis area, and as legend has it, the “Speed ​​King” used his expertise in building cars he dubbed “Wiggins Specials” to help land a submarine. radar as a mechanic on Bill Cummings’ 1934 Indy 500 winning car, which set a record at the time.

Driver Charles Wiggins was excluded from the Indy 500 because he was black.

Willy T. Ribs, the first black rider to qualify and race in the 500 in 1991, has previously said he barely knew the story of Wiggins while growing up with the goal of breaking the color barrier, 65 years after Wiggins Gold and Glory first triumphed.

Penske Entertainment Corp. Chief Diversity Officer Jimmie McMillian said IndyCar hopes it can continue to raise the profile of Wiggins beyond Todd Gould’s book and documentary.

“It’s an important story that needs to be told,” McMillian said in a statement. “Charlie was a great racing driver and inspirational person whose racing career has been sadly affected by the bigotry and prejudice of the world around him. We look forward to shedding light on the extraordinary accomplishments of Charlie and (wife ) Roberta and are proud to bring this true story of remarkable racing achievement to life. ”

Barbara Overton, center, niece of Roberta Wiggins took a closer look at a new gravestone for African American racing legend Charlie Wiggins and his wife Roberta on June 4, 2003 in Indianapolis.  More than 50 spectators gathered at Crown Hill Cemetery to dedicate a stone to Wiggins, whose family could not afford to buy one when he was buried there 24 years ago.  (AP Photo / Indianapolis star Rob Goebel)

McMillian is leading the diversity charge that began just over a year ago by Penske Entertainment, which owns both the IndyCar series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year on July 4, the company announced its Race for Equality and Change initiative, in place to uplift and fund diversity efforts in and around racing. McMillian was announced in his current role last October, and later that year he helped present Force Indy, a USF2000 racing team at the bottom of the Road to Indy series that aims to hire and train black men and women across the team. Young driver Myles Rowe was hired as the team’s driver.

In 13 races, Rowe is 16th in the championship with a better 6th place in his second race of the year. At the time, Roger Penske said he hoped the program would allow the Indy 500 to have a black driver by 2023 or ’24. The Race for Equality and Change initiative also gave birth to Paretta Autosport, an IndyCar team led by motorsport executive Beth Paretta, who through a technical alliance with the Penske team successfully qualified for May Indy 500, one year after the race run for the first time without a woman since 2000.

Email IndyStar Motorsport reporter Nathan Brown at nlbrown@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.

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