William John Vukovich Sr. (//; December 13, 1918 – May 30, 1955) was an American automobile racing driver. He won the 1953 and 1954 Indianapolis 500 plus two more American Automobile Association National Championship races. Several drivers of his generation have referred to Vukovich as the greatest ever in American motorsport.
|Born||December 13, 1918|
|Died||May 30, 1955 (aged 36)|
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana
|Formula One World Championship career|
|Teams||Kurtis Kraft, Trevis, Rounds Rocket, Maserati|
|Entries||6 (5 starts)|
|First entry||1950 Indianapolis 500|
|First win||1953 Indianapolis 500|
|Last win||1954 Indianapolis 500|
|Last entry||1955 Indianapolis 500|
Before he began Indy racing, Vukovich drove midget cars for the Edelbrock dirt track racing team. He raced on the West Coast of the United States in the URA, and won the series' 1945 and 1946 midget car championships. Vukovich won the 1948 Turkey Night Grand Prix at Gilmore Stadium, and six of the last eight races at the stadium track before it was closed for good. He won the 1950 AAA National Midget championship. Vukovich was known for racing midgets powered by Drake engines. The Drake was a Harley V-twin with specially built Drake water cooled heads. His last Drake powered midget was a Kurtis-Kraft that was built by Ed and Zeke Justice, the Justice Brothers, in their shop in Glendale from a Kurtis kit. Previous to this car Vukovich drove a "Frame Rail" midget that was also powered by a Drake engine.
In 1952, his sophomore year in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 500-Mile Race, he quickly moved up from his starting position in the middle of the third row to take the lead, and led 150 laps in dominant fashion before suffering steering failure on the 192nd of the 200 laps. He returned to win the race in consecutive years, 1953 and 1954. He led an astounding 71.7% of laps that he drove in competition at the track, and remains the only driver ever to lead the most laps in the race three consecutive years.
Death at IndianapolisEdit
Vukovich was killed in a chain-reaction crash while holding a 17-second lead on the 57th lap of the 1955 Indianapolis 500. He was exiting the second turn, trailing three slower cars—driven by Rodger Ward, Al Keller, and Johnny Boyd—when Ward's car hit the backstretch outer wall and flipped, resting in the middle of the track as a result of a broken axle. Keller, swerving into the infield to avoid Ward, lost control and slid back onto the track, striking Boyd's car and pushing it into Vukovich's path. After his car went over the outside wall and become airborne, it cartwheeled through the air multiple times landing on top of a group of parked cars before coming to rest upside down and bursting into flames. The cockpit side of his car struck a low bridge near Turn 2 when it was airborne. Boyd's car also flipped over and landed upside down as well. As the car burned, Ed Elisian stopped his undamaged car and raced towards Vukovich in an attempt to save him. It did not matter; Vukovich had perished instantly. He had been partially decapitated upon his car's impact with the low bridge. Two spectators were also injured when Vukovich's car landed on their Jeep. 
Vukovich was the second defending Indy 500 champion to die during the race, following Floyd Roberts in 1939, and the only former winner to have been killed while leading. Roberts' car was also thrown over the backstretch fence after exiting the second turn in his fatal accident. Since the 1955 race was counted as part of the Formula One World Championship, Vukovich is also the first driver to be killed during a World Championship race.
Lifetime achievement awardsEdit
World Championship career summaryEdit
The Indianapolis 500 was part of the World Drivers' Championship (which later became the FIA Formula 1 World championship) from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Vukovich participated in 5 F1 World Championship races. He started on the pole once, won 2 races, set 3 fastest lead laps, and finished on the podium twice. He accumulated a total of 19 championship points.
Motorsports career resultsEdit
Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1950||Indianapolis Race Cars||Maserati 8CTF||Maserati 3.0 L8s||GBR||MON||500
|1951||Central Excavating||Trevis||Offenhauser 4.5 L4||SUI||500
|1952||Fuel Injection||Kurtis Kraft KK500A||Offenhauser 4.5 L4||SUI||500
|1953||Fuel Injection||Kurtis Kraft KK500A||Offenhauser 4.5 L4||ARG||500
|1954||Fuel Injection||Kurtis Kraft KK500A||Offenhauser 4.5 L4||ARG||500
|1955||Hopkins||Kurtis Kraft KK500C||Offenhauser 4.5 L4||ARG||MON||500
Indianapolis 500 resultsEdit
- "ESPN Classic - Vukovich was a fearless racing legend". www.espn.com. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
- Biography Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Retrieved January 4, 2007
- "Sarasota Journal - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
- "Bill Vukovich – Involvement". StatsF1. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- Bill Vukovich Indy 500 Race Stats Archived May 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine