December 16, 2008
WIMBLE POWER, WILL POWER
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
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
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
“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%
Wimble, Ron Narducci, and Ernie Gahan at a racing reunion.
Still buddies after all these moons.
A SUBSEQUENT NOTE
FROM BILL WIMBLE
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
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