Bill Cheesbourg

Bill Cheesbourg

12/6/1927 - 6/11/1995

Bill Cheesbourg raced on the ovals track of America from the early 1950's until the early 1980's.

Bill Cheesbourg was born in  in Tucson Arizona and started racing jalopies at his local tracks in the early 1950's. He made his one and only NASCAR start in 1951.

Bill was runner up in the 1952 Arizona Jalopy Racing Association Championship and won it in 1955. In 1954 when Manzanita added a half mile oval track, it hosted an inaugural marathon 25 hour race on November 21st, which was won by Cheesbourg and Don Davis.

He first raced in the Indy 500 in 1957 in the Seal Line Kurtis Kraft 500G/Offy. He qualified it 23rd but retired on lap 81 with a fuel leak.

He was back the following year in the Novi Auto Air Conditioner Kurtis/Novi. On the fourth and final day of qualifying, car after car took to the track for practice, but none took qualifying runs. Late in the day, Dempsey Wilson bumped his way back in. Then with only 10 minutes left, Bill Cheesbourg fired up one of the Novis. As he rolled off, the engine began misfiring and veteran mechanic Jean Marcenac desperately sprinted after the car, but the engine caught and Cheesbourg was away as Marcenac collapsed onto the pit apron in exhausted relief. Cheesbourg got up to speed and took the green for his qualifying attempt. After his 4 lap run, the Tucson, Arizona driver's 142.546 mph average was enough to bump Gene Hartley and the field was set. Overall, there were 56 entries and the qualifying difference form first to Bill's 33rd and last place on the grid, was only 1.483 seconds!

In 1959 he raced the Greenman-Casale Kuzma/Offy but was sidelined by magneto problems.

He didn't race at Indy in 1960 but in the September he took victory at the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

In 1961 he qualified the Dean Van Lines Kuzma/Offy in 9th, and ran second for a few laps before crashing on the 51st lap. For 1962 he was involved in the testing of John S. Zink's second turbine car. Based on European F1 chassis design, it was powered by a Boeing gas turbine however the car was withdrawn without a qualifying attempt being made.

In 1962 he failled to qualify either the Harvey Aluminum Special or the Hotel Tropicana Kurtis Novi. In the race he drove three laps in relief for Gene Hartley.

In 1963 USAC stock cars returned to Concord Speedway on March 3, with Bill claiming the trophy.

In 1964 Bill hustled the Arizona Apache Airlines Epperly/Offy, in his indomitable style, into the last spot on the grid. When the race got underway, Eddie Sachs, starting from the sixth row, passed Rutherford on the first lap, and Rutherford tucked in behind Sachs. On the second lap Dave MacDonald charged past both of them between Turn One and Turn Two. Exiting Turn Four for the second time, MacDonald lost control of his car, hit the inside wall, and bounced into the path of oncoming cars. Although Rutherford stood on the brakes, he could not slow enough to avoid the melee. Rutherford's car went beneath one wrecked car and over a second before being hit by a third. Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald both lost their lives. The race was red flagged. After the restart, A.J. Foyt won with a record speed of 147.350 mph, Bill went out with gearbox problems on lap 151 but was classified 16th.

In 1965 he once again qualified at the back of the pack in the WIFE GoodGuy Gerhardt/Offy and once again went out with magneto problems.

In 1966, Bill attempted to qualify Adams Aircraft Special. This was another turbine car. USAC had no restrictions on turbine engines before 1967 and in '66 Norm Demler put a GE turbine into one of his chassis. Though it wasn't particularly fast for a full lap this was due to poor handling and braking. On the straights it was hitting a top speed of 260 mph. USAC excluded the car on the grounds of safety. He also attempted to qualify the Stein Porsche. One of the many wierd cars to compete at Indy this one had two Porsche engines. One in front, driving the front wheels, and one in back, driving the back wheels. It was build by Joe Huffaker for Al Stein, the two Porsche 906 engines provided 210HP at each axle driving through Porsche 901 transmissions at each end. During his quaifying attempt he hit and killed a little rabbit coming out of Turn 2. The rabbit was unfortunate as the car had the aerodynamics of a brick and was hoplessly slow failing to qualify by over 20 mph.

Following his Champ Car career, Bill Cheesbourg returned home to Tucson and returned to his racing roots, running Stock Cars at the local dirt track (Corona Speedway). He won a NASCAR Grand National West race in the mid-70's, IIRC, at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix. He finally quit racing in the early 80's.


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