Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 4, 2000 - Issue 22

Witherill Keeps His Blood Ties

The Cory Witherill story has yet to reach its zenith, but for those who watch California Speedway's back-to-back Indy Lights fourth-place finisher return to race , know that his day is coming.

Witherill, 28, is positioning to become the first full-blooded Native American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

"When I make visits to the Native American communities, whenever I go and whatever I do, there are kids who know me," said Witherill, a Santa Monica resident who was adopted by Southern California-based parents, but holds roots to the Navajo Nation in Northeast Arizona. "I'm the only Native American at this high a level of racing right now. That means a lot to me, in many different ways."

Barring an unexpected boost of sponsorship fortune, Witherill's Indy 500 dream is at least a year away. He left Genoa Racing after the fourth race of the Indy Lights season in Portland and switched to Regency Racing for the remaining oval races.

"It's one of those things that happens in racing," Witherill said of the split. "We'd been together so long. I just believed it was time to make a change and see what I could do with a new team."

Regency Racing fielded an Indianapolis 500 car this year driven by Johnny Unser. The team maintains interest in returning to the Indy Racing League, the rival circuit of CART, but owner Sal Incandela recognizes the financial reality of the situation. Thus, team spokesman Judy Rosales projects a 2001 return to Indy Lights.

"I know there are people who want to see me run the Indy 500, but Sal has to look at the sponsorship situation," Witherill said.

In other words, Witherill is prepared to spend a month in limbo as Regency entertains sponsorship offers and formulates its 2001 plan.

"It's just one of those things," he said. "As controlling as people like to be in this business, there are times you're left to sit and wonder about your own situation. When the time comes, you hope you make the right decision. There are so many roads to go down."

Regency will be in meetings this weekend with numerous Indian casinos, including Casino Morongo.

"Ideally, we'd like to be sponsored by casinos throughout the country," Rosales said. "The four directions are important in the Indian way of thinking, so we'd like to have ties to groups in the North, South, East and West.

"The people not making the decisions, his fans, have given us tremendous support. What we always hear is Indian kids need Indian role models. Cory is that."

Previously, Joie Chitwood, a racer of Cherokee descent, appeared in the Indy 500 during the 1940s, but historians have noted his mixed race.

Witherill will appear as a presenter with golfer Notah Begay at the Nov. 11 Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, N.M.

In addition to the interesting business negotiations to follow, the offseason is expected to feature the resumption of Witherill's off-road racing pursuits. He's a four-time champion of the All Canada Valvoline Motorcross of Montreal and has won two super modified buggy titles in Pace Motor Sports U.S, Off Road Championship.

He will continue to make motivational speeches for tribes throughout the country while pursuing his birth parents. He's unaware of their whereabouts and has been frustrated by the state's tight-fisted system of birth records.

"I know very little about them," Witherill said. "That's a big part of the reason I've spent so much time visiting the reservations."

Cory Witherill Official Site

Cory Witherill Bio



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