Texas has a long history of racing so does El Paso, Texas. Not only have we seen some drivers make it into NASCAR & break a world record IN a NASCAR race car but we've seen at least one driver attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 back in the 40's. Many drivers don't get that chance (heck or even finish the iconic race) but El Paso's Bill Sheffler did.

Ryan Holman via YouTube
Ryan Holman via YouTube

Who is Bill Sheffler and when did he race the Indy 500?

Bayard Taylor Sheffler, aka Bill Sheffler, was born in El Paso, Texas on August 23, 1918. He lived in El Paso until the age of 12 when his family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended the University of Southern California for engineering.

Of course he had a passion for racing too; he built his first car "Little Abner" in 1938. Some of his accomplishments included:

  • winning the Carl H. Wallerich Sportsmanship award,
  • he placed 4th in the National AAA points championship in 1946,
  • and he even placed in the top 10 during the 1946 Indianapolis 500. Bill finished 9th place. A very respectful result indeed.

Bill's life would tragically be cut short on June 19, 1949; while practicing for the Trenton 100 Mile Race at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Bill's car would suffer a broken radius rod and crash. Bill would be unconscious and die at Trenton's St. Francis Hospital on June 28. Bill was only 31 years old.

Sadly not much footage exists of Bill's racing online; he DID get a mention in Ryan Holman's video of IndyCar Drivers born on August 23.

However there is a very nice memorial on Facebook in the Tribute to Fallen Race Car Drivers group posted by users Jim Thurman & Don Salzer. Each person uploaded photos of Bill's racing career and gave their respects to the fallen driver.

Of course we WOULD see a Texas driver win the Indy 500 in future races and as mentioned before, drivers from El Paso WOULD make impacts in racing. But never forget that Bill Sheffler was amongst the first to do it nearly a century ago. And for that... we thank you. R.I.P. Bill.

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