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William John Vukovich, Sr.

Russian: Бил „Вучко“ Вуковић, први
Also Known As: "Bill Vukovich", "Vuky"
Birthdate: (36)
Birthplace: Fresno, Fresno County, California, United States
Death: May 30, 1955 (36)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Marion County, Indiana, United States (Accident while leading the 1955 Indianapolis 500)
Place of Burial: GPS Latitude: 36.74424, Longitude: -119.82518 , Fresno, Fresno County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Vukovich and Mildred Vukovich (Serykovich)
Husband of Esther L Vukovich
Father of Bill Vukovich II
Brother of Mary May Eisner; Mike Vokovich; Private; Private; Eli Vukovich and 2 others

Occupation: Race car driver
Managed by: Eldon Clark (Geni volunteer cura...
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Bill Vukovich

Born Vaso Vukovich Vukovich was born on December 13, 1918 in Alameda, California and raised in Fresno. 1 He was one of eight children of immigrant parents from Yugoslavia.1 His father John committed suicide in 1932 and his mother Mildred died of a blood clot in 1938.41

He began racing in 1938, starting with modified before moving on to midget cars.5 Injuries sustained in a racing crash would keep him out of combat service during World War II; he would spend the war repairing service vehicles.He purchased his own midget car after World War II and would become the West Coast champion by 1946 and the national champion by 1950. Vukovich moved on to drive at Indianapolis in the 1950s after the popularity of midget racing declined in the United States.

Find a Grave

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bill Vukovich

Date of birth December 13, 1918

Date of death May 30, 1955 (aged 36)

Formula One World Championship career Nationality United States American Active years 1950–1955

Teams Kurtis Kraft, Trevis, Rounds Rocket, Maserati

Races 6 (5 starts)

  • Championships 0
  • Wins 2
  • Podiums 2
  • Career points 19
  • Pole positions 1
  • Fastest laps 3
  • First race 1950 Indianapolis 500
  • First win 1953 Indianapolis 500
  • Last win 1954 Indianapolis 500
  • Last race 1955 Indianapolis 500

Bill Vukovich (Serbian Cyrillic: Бил Вуковић), (pronounced /ˈvjuːkəvɪtʃ/; December 13, 1918 in Fresno, California – May 30, 1955 in Indianapolis, Indiana) was a Serbian American automobile racing driver. He won the 1953 and 1954 Indianapolis 500 plus two more American Automobile Association National Championship races. Several drivers of his generation have referred to Vukovich as the greatest ever encountered in American motorsport.

He was known variously as "Vuky" (/ˈvuːki/ voo-kee) and "The Mad Russian" (though he detested that name, his ancestry being Serbian) 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 yearbooks, and in an interview his former mechanic Jim Travers calls him "Vuke" as in "cuke".


Before he began Indy racing, Vukovich drove midget cars for the Edelbrock dirt track racing team. He raced on the West Coast of the United States in the URA, and won the series' 1945 and 1946 midget car championships. Vukovich won the 1948 Turkey Night Grand Prix at Gilmore Stadium, and six of the last eight races at the stadium track before it was closed for good. He won the 1950 AAA National Midget championship.

In 1952, his sophomore year in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 500-Mile Race, he quickly moved up from his starting position in the middle of the third row to take the lead, and led 150 laps in dominant fashion before suffering steering failure on the 192nd of the 200 laps. He returned to win the race in consecutive years, 1953 and 1954. He led an astounding 71.7% of laps that he drove in competition at the track, and remains the only driver ever to lead the most laps in the race three consecutive years.

Vukovich was killed in a chain-reaction crash while holding a 17-second lead on the 57th lap of the 1955 Indianapolis 500. He was exiting the second turn, trailing three slower cars—driven by Rodger Ward, Al Keller, and Johnny Boyd—when Ward's car swerved as the result of a gust of wind. Keller, swerving into the infield to avoid Ward, lost control and slid back onto the track, striking Boyd's car and pushing it into Vukovich's path. Vukovich's car struck Boyd's, became airborne, and landed upside down after going over the outside backstretch retaining wall and somersaulting four-and-a-half times, bursting into flames. As the car burned Ed Elisian stopped his undamaged car and raced towards Vukovich in a futile attempt to save him.

Vukovich was the second defending Indy 500 champion to die during the race, following Floyd Roberts in 1939, and the only former winner to have been killed while leading. Roberts' car was also thrown over the backstretch fence after exiting the second turn in his fatal accident. Since the 1955 race was counted as part of the Formula One World Championship, Vukovich is also the first driver to be killed during a World Championship race.

  • Vukovich was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1992.
  • He was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.

His son, Bill Vukovich II, and his grandson, Bill Vukovich III, also competed in the Indianapolis 500, with Vukovich II taking second in 1973, and Vukovich III being named Rookie of the Year in 1988.

(Races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 WDC Points 1950 GBR MON 500 DNQ SUI BEL FRA ITA NC 0 1951 SUI 500 29 BEL FRA GBR GER ITA ESP NC 0 1952 SUI 500 17 BEL FRA GBR GER NED ITA 22nd 1 1953 ARG 500 1 NED BEL FRA GBR GER SUI ITA 7th 9 1954 ARG 500 1 BEL FRA GBR GER SUI ITA ESP 6th 8 1955 ARG MON 500 25 BEL NED GBR ITA 25th 1

Indy 500 results

Year Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired 1950 10 - - - - - - Did not qualify 1951 81 20 133.725 16 29 29 0 Oil tank 1952 26 8 138.212 2 17 191 150 Steering 1953 14 1 138.392 1 1 200 195 Running 1954 14 19 138.478 15 1 200 90 Running 1955 4 5 141.071 3 25 56 50 Crash BS Totals 676 485 Starts 5 Poles 1 Front Row 1 Wins 2 Top 5 2 Top 10 2 Retired 3

The Indianapolis 500 was part of the World Drivers' Championship (which later became the FIA Formula 1 World championship) from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Bill Vukovich participated in 5 F1 World Championship races. He started on the pole once, won 2 races, set 3 fastest lead laps, and finished on the podium twice. He accumulated a total of 19 championship points.

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Bill Vukovich's Timeline

December 13, 1918
Fresno, Fresno County, California, United States
March 29, 1944
Age 25
Riverside, Riverside County, California, United States
May 30, 1955
Age 36
Speedway, Marion County, Indiana, United States
Fresno, Fresno County, California, United States