Jimmy Snyder was a part of midget racing's famous “Chicago Gang,” which included such drivers as Paul Russo, Tony Bettenhausen Duke Nalon, Wally Zale, Emil Andres and Cowboy O’Rourke. He was a former milkman from Chicago who became one of the best known drivers in America.
He started racing in 1932 at Crown Point, Indiana, with a car he bought for $350.
He won several races in the world's championship board track midget races and the first Chicago Indoor Championship. Snyder raced mostly midgets in the Midwest to stay near to his family.
In 1937 he won the Chicago Armory & Riverview Midget Championships and he drove at the Brickyard for the third time.
Before the war, qualifying at Indy was done in ten lap runs of 25 miles. Snyder has the distinction of being one of only two men ever to set a ten lap qualifying record at Indy, but not qualify on pole. In 1937, he ran 130.492 mph to be the fastest qualifier and set an unofficial one-lap record. The other person was Ronney Householder in 1938. This type of qualifying was discontinued, and these two men still hold that record today.
In 1939 he finished second to Wilbur Shaw in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race after taking pole with a new track record.
A month later on the 26th of June he agreed to take part in a minor event at Cahokia to help out the promoter. Cahokia was a quartermile dirt oval five miles south of East St. Louis, Illinois.
Exiting the south turn, he clipped the barrier on the inside of the track and rolled his car. He came to rest upside down in the middle of the circuit, trapped underneath. Three cars managed to pass inside him but Paul Armbruster crashed into him. Snyder was taken to St. Mary's hospital with a broken neck. He died three days later.
After his death the Cahokia Midget Speedway was renamed Snyder Memorial Speedway.