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Remembering Racing Legend “Wild Bill” 82 Years Later

In the world of racing, driving legends never truly die. That’s why on this 82nd anniversary of his death, we remember the career and life of racecar driver Bill “Wild Bill” Cummings. He might not be the most famous driver of all time, and there is even a chance you’ve never heard of him, but he holds several important places in history worth remembering. This February marks the 82nd anniversary of his completely unremarkable death, and we look back on his very remarkable life and racing career.

The life and legacy

Bill “Wild Bill” Cummings was born and raised in the place where he would find his fame: Indianapolis, Indiana. Growing up, Bill was under the influence of the automotive industry. His father worked for the now-defunct Marmon Motor Car company, which reportedly sparked his interest in cars. He didn’t begin racing with dragsters or go-karts but instead on dirt tracks. With little notable or historic wins under his belt, there isn’t much back story for his start into racing, but he did have an enjoyable career.

Indy cars are shown on the brick racing surface as drivers make their way around the pace lap of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1937 black and white
Indy Cars are shown on the brick racing surface of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the pace lap for the Indianapolis 500. Bill Cummings (No. 16) has the pole position | ISC Images & Archives, Getty Images

Bill “Wild Bill” Cummings

With thousands of race car drivers in history, it’s easy to let the less-successful ones drift into the background. Sure, Wild Bill Cummings wasn’t on the front of any cereal boxes, and he maybe didn’t have any posters for young enthusiasts to idolize, but he did have several wins under his belt. This included one win at the famous Indianapolis 500 in 1934 in his number 7 car, which he later went on to name his bar after, The Lucky Seven.

A crowd of fans attending the 2019 Indianapolis 500, filling the stands.
A general view of the pagoda and front stretch of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the NTT IndyCar Series 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 | Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire, Getty Images

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An unremarkable death

One of the biggest tragedies in racing is to lose a driver before his time in a tragic accident. Of course, the potential for a fatal car accident is much higher for drivers taking cars to their limits on the track, and it isn’t unusual to hear of drivers passing away due to injuries sustained at the races. That wasn’t the case for Wild Bill, however. Unfortunately, Bill Cummings passed due to injuries sustained in a regular passenger car he was merely riding passenger in.

Reports claim that Bill was still alive when pulled from the car that had slammed into the guard rail on State Road 29 in Indianapolis. The vehicle broke through the guard rail before plummeting 50 feet into Lick Creek. He passed away from injuries at the hospital several days later.

Drivers take a corner on the racetrack at the Indianapolis 500
NTT IndyCar Series 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana | Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire, Getty Images

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No matter the accident, any loss of a racing icon is, of course, tragic, but he left a place in the world of racing with which we won’t soon forget.