- My journey from dirt-poor dairy farmer to NASCAR National Champion to Lifelong Entrepreneur

by Bill Wimble
with Lew Boyd





Win It or Wear It
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Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com


Bill Wimble at a racing reunion

Courtesy Coastal 181 Collection

December 16, 2008


Have you ever wondered just how much control the human mind can have over the physical world? If Bill Wimble is any indication, the answer is a whole lot, if you really choose to concentrate.

Two years ago Wimble, the ultra-popular 1960 and 1961 NASCAR National Sportsman champion, came up to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame banquet as he does each year. Word got out that he had been afflicted by a very serious form of throat cancer, and he was given loud and loving, standup applause. Obviously moved, Wimble told the gathering, “Doggone it, with your help I AM going to beat this thing.”

I thought to myself at that emotional moment, “My God, I bet he will.” We’ve been working on a book about Bill Wimble here at Coastal 181 and we knew full well that he is no ordinary cowboy.

In 1963 NASCAR sanctioned a 100-lapper Sportsman-Modified race at the mile dirt at the Syracuse Fairgrounds. Driving a brand new red, white, and black #33 Ford-powered coupe out of Dave McCredy’s shop, the bespectacled Wimble qualified on the pole of the huge field, Bill Rafter right alongside.

Then, just before the cars lined up for the main, mechanic Fred DeCarr noticed the gas tank was leaking. The #33 guys scrambled and – perhaps overenthusiastically – stuffed in a huge forty-gallon tank borrowed from Nolan Swift. It didn’t even come close to fitting the mounts, so they clamped it down with chain binders.

A racer for sure but no fool, Wimble chose to confront the situation with determined concentration. “It was almost a given that if I wrecked, we were going to burn,” he recalls. “So I schooled myself over and over again right before the race that I must hang onto consciousness.”

With the wave of the green, Wimble purposefully guided the 33 to a lead, clear of traffic, for four laps before reaching backmarker Dick Kluth. Wimble went high off turn two, but somehow Kluth clipped him. “He turned me into a left spin that took me to the really inadequate inside wall, at which point I began to cartwheel over and over. I remember my head hitting a couple of times as we bounced and I was holding on to consciousness for dear life, but going further away each time my head hit. The car ended up on its side, already on fire.

Courtesy Wimble Collection

“Now I rely on other testimony,” he continues. “I’m told that my head and upper body appeared through the side window, then fell back out of sight, then appeared again. Then I made it out onto the side of the car, jumped or fell off, and made it a few feet away, then falling completely into unconsciousness. Ernie Gahan got out of his car and pulled me away from the fire, quite an act of heroism on his part.”

Wimble was rushed to the hospital and treated for a concussion. Amazingly, his mental fortitude prevented him from sustaining any burns whatsoever. The same cannot be said for the race car. There was no fire truck, and McCredy’s sparkling #33 was fried to a crisp.

On January 25, Bill Wimble will fly from Tampa to Connecticut once again for the NEAR Hall of Fame banquet and will catch up with Ernie Gahan and all his other New England buddies. There’s some special bounce in his step these days. His doctors have told him he is 100% cancer free.

Bill Wimble, Ron Narducci, and Ernie Gahan at a racing reunion.
Still buddies after all these moons. 


After this TEAROFF ran on www.coastal181.com and was published in the NEAR Newsletter, I talked with my friend and fellow NEAR Hall of Famer, Ron Narducci, and found out some information about the incident I had not known for the last 45 years.

Here’s what really happened.

The whole field was behind me in a group as the accident occurred at the beginning of the fifth lap. Ron witnessed the finish of the accident. He was on the inside lane and, thinking quickly, pulled his car to the inside rail and stopped. The rest of the field went by.

Ron unbuckled and ran to my car. The car was on its side, and he saw my head pop up out of the side window, then drop back. He saw my head come up again and was able to grab me and help me out of the car. My helmet and glasses were gone. We both fell to the ground with me on top of Ron. I was unconscious.

Meanwhile, Ernie Gahan had proceeded all the way around the track and came to my wrecked car. Ron had extricated himself from under me. I was on my face, and he was turning me over. Ernie arrived and together he and Ron each took one of my hands and hauled me away from the fire.

I owe my life to both of these men, and Ron, who was the most involved, has always been left out of the story. I am so sorry that I have never known this until now.

When the race was finally ready to restart, the officials that day actually wanted to put Ron to the back of the pack. Ernie, Kenny Shoemaker, Billy Rafter, and others just raised hell, and the officials relented and put him back in the field where he belonged.

I suspect that Ernie wasn’t too popular with the officials, either. He berated them loudly for the absence of fire protection.

As our dear departed Paul Harvey would say. "Now you know the rest of the story".

Thank you, Ron and thank you, Ernie.

Bill Wimble #33


© 2008 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati, the One-armed Bandit

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic, Thirty-First DIamond

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show

7/7/08 - McUnderdog

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer