Best known for racing boats, in the early days, Cantrell divided his time between cars and boats. He raced at Indy twice in 1948 and 1949.
Born in West Point, Kentucky, in 1908, he spent much of his early life in nearby Louisville. Growing up during the Depression Era, his family experienced dire poverty.
"Wild Bill" was best known for racing boats however in the early days, Cantrell raced cars on the dirt tracks as well as boats. At one point he held all the Hoosier Racing Association's records for half-mile tracks.
Racing in Evansville, Indiana, in 1941, he crashed, sustaining a broken neck that later rulled him out of military service during World War II.
He raced at Indy in 1948 and 1949, covering 161 laps in 1948 with the Fageol Twin Coach Special and 95 laps in 1949 with the Kennedy Tank Special until the drive shaft broke.
However boats were his first love and Cantrell worked as a marine supply dealer in the Louisville area. He won eleven major races in the Unlimited Class of hydroplane competition between 1949 and 1964. He also won many Mississippi Valley Power Boat Association Championships in the 725 Cubic Inch Inboard Class during the 1930s and early 1940s.
He also picked up a few dollars as a semi-professional wrestler.