Gordon Smiley, from Nebraska, was an accomplished racing driver, who won in sports cars and open wheel single seaters. At one time he held 25 lap records in SCCA competition, and in 1979 won the Aurora Formula 1 race at Silverstone. He qualified for two Indy 500s, 1980 and 1981, but was killed while trying qualify for a third in 1982.
Smiley had been strugeling with his March in qualifying. He was aiming for a 200 mph average lap speed, but had only been able to reach 196 mph. Then, on the second of his wam-up laps, the car suddenly oversteered as it entered Turn 3. Smiley seemed to overcorrect and hit the wall head-on. In one of the most violent racing accidents ever seen, Smiley's helmet was torn off, and the cockpit crushed. The engine and rear wing were ripped off when the car flew into the catch fence. The March was totally destroyed, and Smiley was killed instantly.