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Making History:

New Team Is First Solely Owned By African-American In Indy Racing

By Dick Mittman (indyracing.com)
When driver Billy Roe took the checkered flag in qualifying for the Casino Magic 500, the St. Louis chiropractor became the first African-American with sole ownership of a team to put a car in the field of an Indy Racing event. This stretches back to the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

"I finally got a chance to qualify and make a race, " said Logan as Roe pulled off the racing surface. " Hopefully, this a sign of things to come in the future.
Quietly and without fanfare, Dr. Jim Logan made auto racing history Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

"We're making history, for No. 1. No. 2, all of us like racing, we love racing. We're here doing what we really want to do. To make history on top of it is just a bonus. We're trying to open up this sport to people who haven't been here before, mechanics, people working on the cars, technicians, engine builders and also as fans. So I think this is going to be good for the sport in the long run. Everything has to have a start and this is a good place to do it."

Roe turned a fast lap of only 200.237 mph and will start at the rear of the field after qualifying was rained out two-thirds of the way through the session. But it was a start for the team that came together on the Tuesday before qualifying weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Roe wasn't even considered as the driver until that weekend and then was unable to take a refresher test to attempt to qualify the car.

So the Casino Magic 500 became debut time for car owner, driver and car.
THE CAR - a 1999 Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone -- was assembled by a crew headed by David Bleke. He is a Formula 2000 driver who owns a shop in Whiteland, Ind. The Oldsmobile engine was built by a new Chicago company, Indy Engine Development, formed by Matt Bradford and Bill and Gary Dyers.

"That was our plan, go to Indy and see if we could make the race, put the car together there," Logan said. "The team started jelling a little bit. Some of these fellows have never been with an Indy-car team even though they've been around racing all their lives. It's given us an opportunity for some people who haven't had a chance to do this. I think that's the idea to make the sport grow. It's not going to grow without new people coming in."

Roe, who lives near Phoenix, drove in the Indianapolis 500 in 1997 and 1998 with respective finishes of 22nd and 30th. He also appeared at Phoenix and Las Vegas in 1997 and Texas in 1998, his last previous Indy Racing event. He qualified 25th and placed 20th at Texas, completing 108 laps. Roe heard through the grapevine at Indy that Logan sought a driver. They had met in the past.

"I was going to dinner Saturday night, Pole Day (at Indy), and he was praying," Roe said. "My footsteps led over to his garage and he said, 'I was just praying for a driver.' He walked out of his garage, there I sat, and here we are."

Logan already has been involved in open-wheel racing as a car owner in USAC's Silver Bullet and Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car series. Among his drivers has been Indy Racing regular Donnie Beechler.

"Doc," as he likes to be called, said breaking the color barrier as car owner is a moot point. He considers himself just another race car owner taking advantage of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series open-door policy to participate in the upper echelon of the sport he loves. "From the standpoint of our sociology and the way our country has evolved, it's quite a significant event," he said. "From a point of reality and history it is, I would think, remarkable. It so happens I happen to be the individual who is doing it. I think we're still in America, and there should not really be a need for emphasis placed upon any type of diversity, whether it be male, female, nationality, religion or anything else."

Logan, an Air Force veteran, has a strong belief in America and the opportunities that it provides. "With that in mind, I feel great," he said about being an Indy Racing car owner for the first time. "There is no other way to feel coming from the lower classification of automobiles as far as racing is concerned, and to be able to participate is just a privilege. And this is a privilege to be involved with an organization such as this."

Logan decided to start his team in March. He admitted that joining the series in the middle of the season is a disadvantage, but there is a positive aspect. "That's not the whole picture," he said. "Sometimes the participation is just as important as the result." The team goal is to participate, try to become competitive and, most importantly, learn what it takes to be solid entrant in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series and at Indianapolis in the future. He assured that he expects his entry to be more than a one-time occurrence.

"I've been a racer all my life as far as liking cars, airplanes, boats, anything that moves actually," he said.

He first became involved in organized car racing when he raced his sons in quarter midgets during the late 1970s in southern Illinois. He joined USAC in 1993 and competed on a semi-regular basis until this year, when he decided to join the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. In the Silver Bullet Series, he offered opportunities mostly to younger drivers trying make the jump to USAC's most powerful racing machines.

Logan attended the first Indy Racing League event in January 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway, liked what league founder Tony George was doing but delayed participating until he gained more experience. "Anytime you come over here, it's a pretty big decision," he said. "On a relative scale, I couldn't compete with these well-funded teams, but you've got to start somewhere."

Logan doesn't have sponsor and, as he has most of the time in the past, is funding his operation. He's never had a partner or co-owner. Logan aims to field competitive team for long haul in Indy Racing.

"The whole idea is to get the best piece on the track that we can," he said. "I've had pressure on me all my life and take less and do more with it."

Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, in 1991, driving for Derrick Walker. Late National Football League great Walter Payton was a co-owner of two entries at Indianapolis in 1995.

Logan said he wants to have an African-American drive his car someday at Indianapolis. "Again that would be something I would like to do because the driver's qualified and not just because he's a black driver," he said. "Naturally, being a black man myself, I'd like to see people of color into every area of life on earth and life in America, especially. But my primary concern is I would like to have a competitive team, and I'd like to get out and perform. With the other part, I would agree that would be something I would be proud of."

"Eventually one day I would like to have a single-car team with maybe an Afro-American or black driver but also to have a multi-car team with the talent being the deciding factor of who gets in the seat."

Doctor Jim Logan with development driver Justin Via and the Logan Racing Silver Crown car.

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