|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
From the day that Bill Spence rode with Babe Stapp in a
race in Toledo in 1925, racing was Spence's number one
priority. Bill started his career with a revamped "flivver."
He was a favorite on Southern California tracks, and his
main competition had been Lou Moore in races in the
LA area. In 1928, he was the dirt track champion of the
Pacific Coast and had won his last race at Ascot on
Easter in L.A.
He moved up to the Indianapolis 500 in 1928. He drove a
Boyle Valve Special as a relief driver for Billy Arnold,
who finished 7th. In 1929, Spence wanted to drive the
entire race by himself and he got an Indianapolis-built
On race day, as Bill flew around the track, the trailing ends
of the hankerchief that he wore inside his cap made him
look (according to an Indianapolis Star reporter) like the
winged god Mercury, a fitting speed symbol for this young
and promising race driver.
On the 14th lap of the 200-lap race, his car swerved and
the rear end hit the inner wall of the SE turn at over 100
mph. The car completely overturned, threw Spence out,
righted itself, and went down the track backwards.
Spence, who had fractured his skull when he hit the brick
track, died on the way to the City Hospital.
This accident was caught on film by the makers of the
1929 silent film "Speedway" and the horrific crash can
be seen in the last reel.
His death was the first that had occurred in the race itself
since 1919. His death wasn't announced at the race, but
appeared in the newspaper later. Spence was from Los
Angeles and he left a wife, Vivian, and his parents.
Fred Duesenberg commented, "He was a nice boy and
had lots of nerve. I think he was trying to make up lost time
when the accident occurred." It didn't appear that the wreck
was caused by mechanical failure.
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed Start Finish
1928 43 Boyle Valve Relieved Arnold
1929 10 Duesenberg 14-wrecked SE, died 12 32
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park_Glendale_CA