|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|Manny Ayulo - driver
Bill Vukovich Sr. - driver
Manuel Leaonedas Ayulo was born in Burbank California
October 20, 1921, a son of a Peruvian diplomat stationed
in L.A. He was called Manny and was called Yo-Yo by
some of his friends.
As a boy, Manny had to dress up; but he seldom wore a tie
after he grew up. He had always loved cars and raced
around the L.A. streets in hot rods as a youth. Shortly after
WWII he had a Ford roadster which he raced on dry lakes
in California. He began dirt-track racing in 1946-47.
In both 1953 and 1954, Ayulo finished 13th at Indy. In
1954 he was 2nd in AAA national standings (Jimmy
Bryant was 1st.) with two wins, and three 2nd places in
8 championship races.
Ayulo was the last to try to qualify on Sunday May 15th,
just before 6 o'clock; which was something he was known
for. Car owner Peter Schmidt waved him off though as
he was running 139 mph and thought he could reach 140
He returned the next day, and once again, close to 6
o'clock, Ayulo took the car out.
He did not make the first turn, but drove at 140 mph into
the wall. Perhaps something went wrong with the
The car slid along the wall for 518 feet.
He must have tried to brace himself with his arms as he
had no chest injuries. When the rescuers reached the car,
he was slumped forward unconscious. His goggles were
Year Car# Car Laps completed Start Finish
1948 88 Weidel DNQ
1949 73 Karl Hall 120.49 mph, too slow
1949 52 Sheffler Offy 24, connecting rod 33 38
1950 85 Coast Grain Co 120 mph, too slow
1951 31 Coast Grain Co 131.128 mph, 2nd Alt.
1951 9 Hinkle Relieved Jack McGrath 33
1952 8 Coast Grain Co 184 - flagged 28 30
1953 88 Peter Schmidt 184 Connecting rod 4 13
1954 88 Peter Schmidt 197 - flagged 22 13
1955 88 Peter Schmidt Practice wreck, died
William John "Bill" Vukovich, Sr. was known variously as
"Vuky" and "The Mad Russian" (though he detested that
name, having been born in Fresno, California, of
Yugoslavian ancestry) for his intense driving style, as well
as the "Silent Serb" for his cool demeanor. He was also
referred to as the "Fresno Flash" in Floyd Clymer's Indy
Vuky grew up on a farm in California. He tried his hand at
racing when whe was 18. Right off, he placed second in a
stock car event. Then he headed for the midget tracks. In
his first Midget race in 1938, he flipped and suffered
broken ribs and a broken collarbone. Seven weeks later
he was back in a race car.
After spending the war years repairing Jeeps and trucks,
he bought a Midget and became a Champion. He won the
1946 and 1947 UBA West Coast titles and in 1950 he
won the AAA National Midget crown.
Within a few years, Bill Vukovich was one of the country's
top drivers. Racing fans said that Vuky liked to drive just
one way - hard and fast. There were many stories about
his love of speed. Vuky's blazing spirit cloaked in a cool
demeanor was evident in the 1954 Pan American Road
Race. His terrified co-driver repeatedly protested as
Vukovich sliced corners on the precipitous mountain
roads. When the car shot over a bank and dropped 50
feet, Vuky took his hands off the wheel while the car was
still airborne and said, "OK, you drive it".
Vuky's Indianapolis 500 career was meteoric and placed
him among the best ever to compete at the famed
Memorial Day Classic. A Hall of Fame open wheeler
with only five races at the Brickyard must have been
mighty good! This charger with fire in the belly and a
beat-the-devil attitude was as good as they come!
After a lackluster rookie year in 1951, he began a streak
that easily could have resulted in four consecutive Indy
wins. In 1952 he appeared headed for victory when a
quarter-inch pin on the steering arm gave out on the
192nd lap, sending his car into the wall and allowing
Troy Ruttman to post the win.
In 1953 he endured searing heat and led for 195 laps to
win the 500, one of only five drivers that year to finish the
race without relief. His average speed was 128.74 mph.
His qualifying speed is 138.392 mph.
In 1954, he started in the 19th position but he fought his
way into the lead at the 375-mile mark. No one ever
caught up with him. Vukie crossed the finish line, 1.1
minutes ahead of the second-place car, Jimmy Bryan.
Vukie's average speed was a record-breaking 130.84
mph (210.561 kph). Vukie had joined Wilbur Shaw and
Mauri Rose as the only drivers to have won the Indy 500
two years in a row*.
Then it was 1955. It was time for a third straight win. It
was time to face the Indy Jinx. Though he was a tough
driver, Bill was a quiet man. This year, he seemed
especially quiet. He acted as if he didn't want to be in the
race. One day he told a friend he had the feeling that he
On the night before the race, he turned to his wife. He
said they ought to forget the 500 and go home. The next
morning, he stopped alongside a fellow driver and looked
at the crowd. He said that the fans thought the drivers
were "freaks." He added that they were right. Perhaps
he sensed the tragedy that was to come.
Still, Bill Vukovich raced as hard as ever that day. Starting
in fifth position, he quickly knifed his way to the front. By
lap 57, everyone thought a third straight win might be his.
Vuky was leading by half a mile. He shot down the back
straightaway. He came up to the rear of the pack. Just
ahead were Rodger Ward, Al Keller, and Johnny
The racers swept into the turn. Without warning, Ward's
car went out of control. It had a broken axle. The
car flipped over on its back. Keller swerved to avoid Ward.
He headed for the wall, swung back onto the track, and
plowed into Boyd.
|Ayulo's 1953 Indy 500 racer
He was taken to Methodist Hospital. Besides some
broken bones and lacerations, he had a basal skull
He died 19 hours after the accident, on Tuesday May 17th
at 12:55 p.m.
Ayulo had said that if anything went wrong with the car it
would be his own fault. He was an exccellent mechanic
and either supervised all the work on the racer or did it
himself. The AAA investigators who inspected the
wrecked car could not be certain that the broken axle
and the vertical steering shaft that had pulled out of the
lower steering arm had actually caused the accident.
He was survived by his wife Charlene and daughter
Frances (4). Charlene was not at the track the day of the
|Bill Vukovich's 1953 Winning Indy 500 Car
|Bill Vukovich's 1954 Winning Indy 500 Car
Year Car# Car Laps completed Start Finish
1950 10 I.R.C. DNQ
1950 87 R.E.C. DNQ
1951 81 Central Excavating 29 - oil tank 20 29
1952 26 Fuel Injection 191 - steering 8 17
1953 14 Fuel Injection 200 1 1
1954 14 Fuel Injection 200 19 1
1955 4 Hopkins 56 - wreck, died 5 25
|Belmont Memorial Park, Fresno, CA
* Regarding the Indy jinx, After winning two races in a
row, Wilbur Shaw wrecked while leading and was injured
in a career ending accident in 1941. Mauri Rose went on
to win that race. The war years put the Indy 500 on hold
until 1946. Mauri techincally could have two in a row by
winning the '46 race. However, he hit the wall and was
thrown out and he landed on the track in a sitting
position! Stunned, he sat there as the pack shot past.
His mind began to clear, and he started to think he was
ok, he got up, and found he'd fractured his hip! Mauri
came back and won the following two Indy 500's though.
If he could win in 1949, he could still make three in a row.
He was closing in on the leader, 20 laps from the end,
when his magneto strap broke forcing him to limp into the
pits, ruining his hopes for three in a row. Al Unser almost
did it too, winning in 1970 and 1971. He finished second
to Mark Donohue in 1972. Perhaps someday a driver will
beat the Indy jinx once and for all.
Boyd skidded between the overturned Ward and the wall.
He headed directly into Bill's path. Bill hit him broadside.
The Vukovich car bounced across Boyd's rear wheel,
shearing it off. Then the car sailed over the wall. It turned
over while in the air and smashed nose-first into the
ground. It bounced high twice. Then it exploded in flames
and landed on its back. At the wheel, Bill Vukovich was
Track officials investigated the crash. They found that Bill
had died before the flames reached him. The cause of his
death was a skull fracture. He was 36 years old.
Bill's son and grandson would go on to compete in future
Fire and ice -- Bill Vukovich shunned adoring crowds, yet
had an unquenchable desire to excel for them. His life
ended as it had been lived -- going for it all.