Bill Vukovich, also known as Wild Bill and Vukie, was a foot-grinding daredevil who considered the Indianapolis "500" his own special race. While other drivers scorched lesser tracks on the racing circuit from Langhorne to Sacramento, Bill Vukovich managed a filling station in Fresno, Calif., waiting, planning and training like a boxer for the main go on Memorial Day.
Vukie used any strategy to conquer the proud Speedway. In 1953, just a year after he had been wrenched from victory by a disabled steering gear, he announced "I'll take the lead and stay there"—and he went on to win $89,000 in prizes and lap money. Last year, with a poorer starting position, he hung off the pace and then, when his rivals had all but counted him out, roared up to win again in the record speed of 130.84 mph. Born 36 years ago in Alameda, Calif., Bill Vukovich did his first driving in a pony cart but was racing cars on dirt tracks by the time he was 14. Another victory this week would have given him an unprecedented three in a row. He had held most of the early lead when the crash came.