Bill Cummings

Full Name:
William C "Wild Bill" Cummings
Born:
11th November 1906
Indianapolis, Indiana
Died:
8th February 1939 (Aged 32)
Indianapolis, Indiana, road accident
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

With a father who worked for the Marmon Motor Company and raised four miles from the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway, "Wild" Bill Cummings was always destined to race at the Brickyard. His "wild" tag was a leftover from his father but the youngster certainly enjoyed life away from the track.

Winner on his Indycar debut

He started racing on local dirt tracks during the late-1920s before making a sensational Indycar debut at Langhorne in 1930. He qualified a Century Tire Miller on pole position and led all the way to victory. Fifth at Indianapolis with a Stevens-Duesenberg, he then won the 100-miler at Syracuse. It had been some maiden season for the popular rookie was third in the AAA National Championship.

He drove Earl Cooper’s Miller during 1931 with which he qualified second and led at Indy before a broken oil line. He returned to the race as relief in Deacon Litz’s Duesenberg and was running second with 23 laps to go when he crashed. May 1932 was a disappointing month in the Bowes Seat Fast Stevens-Miller but Cummings did win at Oakland after passing Bob Carey with two laps to go.

Cummings was getting ever-closer to victory in his local race and he led the opening 32 laps from pole position in 1933 – winning the other two championship races that year.

Indianapolis 500 victory

In complete contrast to his nickname, Cummings then drove a canny fuel saving race to win the 1934 Indianapolis 500 – his Boyle Products Miller leading the final 25 laps. "Perhaps they’ll start calling me Conservative William" was his remark in Victory Lane. That sentiment was re-enforced as he finished eighth at Mines Field to clinch that year’s championship.

Third at Indianapolis in 1935, he set a new diesel Land Speed Record of 133.023mph on Daytona Beach a year later. He was out of luck in the 1936 Indy 500 when clutch failure prevented his Miller-Offenhauser from starting. He qualified on pole position and finished sixth a year later and was a creditable seventh in the 1937 Vanderbilt Cup against European stars such as Bernd Rosemeyer, Rudolf Caracciola and Tazio Nuvolari.

Road accident

Cummings was driving from downtown Indianapolis to his suburban home on February 6 1939 when he lost control on a wet road and crashed into a creek below. Passers by saved him from drowning but Cummings had a fractured skull and died two days later without regaining consciousness.

A mechanic by trade and qualified pilot, he supplemented his prize money by working as a car salesman during the 1930s. He was a lively character who was popular among fans and peers alike.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1938 AAA National Championship
Boyle Racing Headquarters
Loop Cafe
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 9.9
1937 AAA National Championship
Lou Moore
HC Henning
2 1 0 0
0% win rate
7th 444.4
1936 AAA National Championship
Boyle Racing Headquarters
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
16th 120
1935 AAA National Championship
HC Henning
4 0 3 0
0% win rate
2nd 630
1934 AAA National Championship
HC Henning
Peter de Paolo
3 1 1 1
34% win rate
1st 681.7
1933 AAA National Championship
MJ Boyle
3 3 2 2
67% win rate
7th 240
1932 AAA National Championship
BL Schneider
MJ Boyle
6 3 4 1
17% win rate
5th 430
1931 AAA National Championship
Henry W Maley
Empire State Gas Motors
6 0 3 0
0% win rate
10th 191.5
1930 AAA National Championship
Peter de Paolo
Century Tire
5 1 3 2
40% win rate
3rd 650.4