A self made multi millionaire who career in Sprint racing started in 1960 and spanned 5 decades. The 2001 season had already been marred by the tragic deaths of Dale Earnhardt and Charles Kettl, the local racing community took yet another blow when Bankston, racing in the All-Star Sprints at Eldora Speedway also lost his life.
John Bankston died 20 years ago, he was 62 , He would have been 82.
Bankston was born April 15, 1939 in Beaumont. A graduate of French High School, he enlisted in the Army with best friend and fellow racer Jerry Aylor long before either began their driving careers. Aylor recounted how shortly after the two were honorably discharged, they were looking for work and low on money. They could only afford one hamburger, so they cut it in half and shared it. At the time of his death, John Bankston was a self-made multimillionaire.
John's racing career spanned through 5 decades, as he began racing in 1960. He has raced many types of cars, but was noted for his modified and sprint car racing. He began racing in the "Hot 6" division at Motorama Speedway, now Speedway 90, in 1971. A consistent winner ever since, his dare-devil, flat out style of driving kept fans on the edge of their seats and gave them something to talk about for weeks on end. Out of the driver's seat, his special charisma bridged the generation gap, often giving away his trophies to his young fans after winning races at the local tracks.
John Whittington Jr.called him the Dale Earnhardt of Southeast Texas.
In a season already marred by the tragic deaths of Dale Earnhardt and Charles Kettl, the local racing community took yet another blow when Bankston, racing in the All-Star Sprints at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio,
On lap 17 Bankston hit Eldora's outside concrete wall and rolled back down the track, collecting Blake Feese and Jason Johnson, who had no place to go. Eldora's Rural Metro ambulance crew had to assist Bankston with breathing the whole way to Coldwater Hospital. From there, he was preparing to be life flighted to Dayton's Miami Valley Trauma Canter. When the helicopter landed to pick up the injured driver, Bankston went into cardiac arrest and despite the efforts of the trauma team, they were unable to revive him.