Born: January 11, 1932
- Died April 24, 2016
From: Libson, NY
Wimble is a former NASCAR driver who
competed in four Grand National events in his
debut came in 1958, when he competed at Reading.
Starting 20th in the field of thirty, Wimble
just simply drove a solid race and wound up
finishing 18th. He matched that in his other
start that year, finishing 18th despite engine
issues at Rochester.
final two races came in 1962, when he competed
in the Daytona Speedweeks festivities. Starting
8th in the Qualifier event, Wimble completed all
but two races and wound up with a 17th place
finish. That was good enough to put him in the
500, when Wimble ran a fantastic race to record
a career-best 11th place finish.
Wimble, former NASCAR Sportsman champion, passes at 84
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Wimble, 84, who captured NASCAR’s National Sportsman
Championship in 1960, died Sunday from a brain aneurysm.
Wimble, from Lisbon, New York, is best
known in this area for his heroism by helping save the
life of 1961 Daytona 500 champion Marvin Panch.
Panch was trapped in a burning sports car
after crashing during a test run at Daytona
International Speedway in 1963.
Tiny Lund, Wimble and several other men
rushed to Panch’s aid and pulled him out of the flaming
race car. Panch, who was injured in the incident, in
turn gave his Daytona 500 ride with Wood Brothers Racing
to Lund, who won the race.
Wimble captured numerous track
championships in the northeast. He made two NASCAR Cup
Series starts in Daytona in 1962.
He finished 17th in a qualifying race,
which counted as a points race, and finished 11th in the
Panch died last year.
and Billy became big friends,” said Wimble’s friend Bill
Harman, who lives in Port Orange. “He was a gentleman’s
gentleman. Race drivers could be a little rough and
tumble back in the day, but not Billy.”
Harman, who was nominated for a racing
Hall of Fame in the northeast by Wimble, said Wimble was
one of his boyhood heroes.
“I was a Billy Wimble fan when I started
to watch races,” Harman said. “He could drive that race
car. Later on, I ran races with Billy a lot of times. He
was a darn good driver. Billy was as good as they come.”
The Living Legends of Auto Racing honored
Wimble with its prestigious Pioneer of Racing Award in
The Bill Wimble Story
by Scott Pacich
started attending races in 1951 at the St. Lawrence Valley Speedway in
Canton, NY, which was near his hometown of Lisbon. Immediately
captivated, it took only six weeks of watching the competition before he
made the decision to go racing himself, although with no money the
endeavor was tough. But it was that humble start that launched a storied
career that resulted in numerous championships, awards and accolades.
Accolades that continue to come in.
His first race win was in 1955, and his first point championship came 3
years later. He won the first NASCAR National Sportsman Championship and
the first NASCAR New York State Championship in 1960 and ran at Fonda
Speedway for 10 years, from 1958 through 1967, winning the track
championship in 5 of those years. On a circuit of Utica-Rome,
Albany-Saratoga and Fonda in 1967, he won the point championship at all
three tracks. He won 10 Most Popular Driver awards in the Northeast
through the 1960's, was the first driver chosen for Kodak's "All Time
Great Award" in 1972 and was the second driver chosen for the Race of
Champions Hall of Fame in 1979. He was inducted into the New York State
Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in 1988, the Fonda Speedway Hall of
Fame in 1990 and the DIRT Hall of Fame in 1992. Finally, he was inducted
into the Living Legends of Auto Racing in 1993, The Eastern Motorsports
Press Association Hall of Fame in 2001 and the New England Auto Racers
Hall of Fame in 2002.
Not only are his on track accomplishments and accolades almost
overwhelming, he was also awarded the Carnegie Bronze Medal in 1963 for
aiding in the rescue of Marvin Panch from a fiery wreck at Daytona, the
John Naughton Memorial Sportsmanship Award in 1963 and the Buddy Schuman
Award by Champion Spark Plug in 1964.
He's also a veteran of 54 years in the business world, being the
principal or sole owner of roughly 25 different businesses. The major
focus of his business career has been Dairy Farming, Auto Racing, Bulk
Truck Transportation and Factoring. He successfully bought, built to
prominence and sold two trucking companies. In 1993 he turned to
Factoring, which involves the process of buying debt from a debtor, and
then settling it, hopefully at a higher price than it was bought for. As
he was in racing, he was outstanding in factoring, being honored by the
Greater Brandon, Florida Chamber of Commerce as Small Business of the
year in 1998. He sold that company in 2000, and expects to finish his
business career as General Partner of three Investment Limited
33 is Bill Wimble and I was recently privileged to speak with him and
ask him a few questions.
Since most of his career really was spent in the modifieds, I asked Bill
what made him stay with them. "Because they were there," Bill says.
"There were really no choices and that's all I knew. I did try to run
Grand National (Winston Cup), but I found out there was more money to be
made with the modifieds. Of course, this was well before the days of
Television and big-dollar sponsors". Bill would not pin down one
specific thing as a career defining racing moment, but based on the
accolades listed previously you can see that was a difficult thing to
pin down. When asked about a non-racing highlight, Bill responded with
his very successful business resume, this time highlighting his 1998
Small Business of the Year award.
I asked Bill the obligatory
"favorite" questions next. You know those questions. Favorite driver,
favorite track, favorite car... His responses: " I really had no
favorite driver, but I do consider among my friends many of the great
drivers we've seen. Fonda Speedway was my favorite track. I won 5
championships in 10 years there". And finally Bill responds about his
favorite car: "One of the many number 33 coupes that I drove was my
favorite. It was originally built in 1960, but after a rebuild it gave
us our best year in 1963. Dave McCredy of McCredy Motors in Sherburne,
NY owned it. Fred DeCarr was the chief mechanic, assisted by Doug
Rundell". I found this kind of unique, as I expected that a good old
time racer like Bill would have built his own cars, and remembered one
of them as his favorite. "I built my own cars only long enough to be
noticed by others," says Bill. "I had no talent for building". Bill
again paid homage to Fred DeCarr, naming him his favorite car builder.
last "favorite" question related to his competition. I wanted to know if
he had any favorite drivers on the track. Someone whom he liked to race
against. "There were too many to name," related Bill. "Frankie
Schneider, Pete Corey, Kenny Shoemaker, Buck Holliday and Lou Lazzaro to
name a few". Yes, I guess you can say there were too many to mention,
but Bill did a pretty darn good job don't you think? To close out this
line of questioning, we shifted gears to a "least favorite" topic; did
he have anyone he DIDN'T like to compete against? Bill diplomatically
answered "Yes, but I prefer not to name them".
Changing gears a little, I wanted Bill to give me a little insight into
what racing in his "time" was like. For instance, what would a typical
race week be like? "In 1960 I was determined to be the NASCAR National
Sportsman champion," said Bill. "This is what's now known as the Busch
Grand National Series. We would race Wednesday in Montreal, Canada and
then Friday in Rochester, NY. Saturday's would find us at Fonda, NY and
Sundays would find us back at Montreal in the afternoon, and then at
Plattsburg, NY on Sunday evenings". Phew! And to think that it's
considered hard these days to put together a two night a week racing
effort! In the modifieds, Bill relates "In 1967 I ran Friday at Albany
Saratoga, NY, Fonda on Saturday and Sunday at Utica Rome, NY. I won all
three track championships that year". Again, two nights a week is tough
for most of today's teams, and a single point championship is admirable.
During this incredible racing period of Bill's, many interesting things
happened and I just wanted to get
a little taste of some things that happened to him, and get an exposure
to a favorite place of mine. With all that time on the track, something
strange is bound to happen during a driver's career. In Bill's case, it
was not only strange, but a little scary too. "I once rolled a car over
in Ottawa" Bill relates. "During the crash a fence post was driven
straight through the car, about three inches behind my seat". Strange
indeed. And pretty close to life ending too. From a somewhat selfish
standpoint, I wanted Bill to talk about one of MY favorite places.
Langhorne. I asked Bill to take me for a lap around that legendary
place, first on dirt and then on asphalt. Bill said "First on dirt. It
was balls to the wall. There was no real straightaway, and I ran the
outside groove. I was in a constant power slide all the way around". I
would have thought that after paving the track would have changed
considerably. Bill responds, "On asphalt, it was balls to the wall. I
ran the center groove, and with paving came a short back straightaway.
The rest was all turn". Not as much difference as I anticipated. Bill
adds, "Langhorne was a very rough racetrack, both in its dirt and
legend has been related in far more detail I'm sure, so I wanted to
touch on the more personal aspects of a traveling modified racer in the
heyday of the sport. I wanted to find out a little bit about his family
and their involvement in his career, and I wanted his feelings on topics
such as pensions, insurance and how racing today compares to racing
then. "During my first marriage, my wife traveled to the races with me
quite a bit," says Bill. " Her sister, who is like my sister traveled
with me even more. In my second marriage my wife, and my kids to some
degree traveled with me most of the time". I was not surprised to hear
this, as it seems to be the case with every racer of that era. Family
was a huge part of the racing deal. I wanted to know from Bill if as a
traveling racer that invested a huge amount of his life into the sport,
did he feel any slight about the lack of pensions, insurance and
recognitions that these pioneers seemingly suffer. "We knew those things
weren't there. There were not, nor are there now any entitlements to
such" says Bill. "It's the responsibility of the individual to take care
of his family, his retirement and his well being". Words well spoken,
and advice that should be taken by many of today's drivers who feel they
are owed something by the sport.
As far as a view of today's state of modified racing, Bill says "I loved
it then, and I love it now. Some of the entrepreneurship is gone due to
the ability to buy a complete car, and it's replacement parts. But it's
still a great sport". I echo, as I think many of you do Bill's thoughts.
The modifieds was always a class where ingenuity was encouraged and
could get the job done. In fact, it used to be the way to get to a
higher level of racing. In fact, at some point in time it was considered
to be in itself the top of racing.
So this is the story of Bill Wimble. A guy who raced against the best
modified racing had to offer, and more often that not beat them. Even
though the real money in racing arrived after his retirement, he has no
regrets, including the fractured skull that ended his driving career in
1968. As for the racer who is just starting out Bill advises, "Persevere
and believe in yourself when the bad times come (as they always do). Do
this and things will pay off for you".
Now living in Valrico, Florida with his wife Nancy, Bill is winding down
his business career. After 54 years in business, raising three sons and
beating the best racers there were it's time to relax. Ever aware of
what really makes racing, Bill leaves us with one comment about the
modified fans, both then and now.
"We love you!"
Reach Scott Pacich at firstname.lastname@example.org
Living Legends of Auto Racing honored Bill Wimble with their
'Pioneer of Racing' award at their annual Awards Banquet,
Feb 14th, 2007 in Daytona Beach.
Bill Wimble Grand National Driver Statistics
Copyright © 2003
by Roland Via. All rights reserved. Revised:
04/27/16 22:29:36 -0400.
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