Billy Arnold

16/12/1905 - 10/11/1976

Record updated

Competed in 5 Indy 500s between 1928 and 1932, winning the race in 1930.

Billy Arnold
Billy Arnold was born in Chicago, Illinois. Competed in 5 Indy 500s between 1928 and 1932.

After a horrific 1927 accident at Salem, Harry Hartz decided to make his comeback as a driver at the 1930 Indianapolis 500. Harry had built a front wheel drive Summers-Miller but after practice, he decided to retire. Immediately becoming an owner instead of a driver he got Arnold to drive for him. Billy put the car on pole with a 113.263 mph average. In the race Louie Meyer in a 16 cylinder Stevens-Miller led the first two laps, then Arnold passed him into first place. Arnold continued to pull away from the field, leading 198 laps and winning by over seven minutes. Arnold's leading total of 198 laps in this race is still the record for the most laps led in a single "500". Arnold also became the first man to win the "500" at a pace of over 100 mph without relief.

Arnold then drove the car at the two big AAA Championship races at Altoona on June 14th and September 1st. He won both of them on his way to taking the 1930 AAA National Driving Title.

For the 1931 "500" Hartz entered two cars, with Arnold in the 1930 winning Summers-Miller and Fred Frame in a thoroughbred Duesenberg racer.

Arnold started 18th, but by lap 7 he had moved into the lead. He continued to pull away just as he had in 1930. By lap 192 he had a five lap advantage over second place when his rear axle broke. The car went over the Speedway’s northeast wall in flames. A wheel flew off and hit 12 year old Wilbur Brink who was sitting in his garden at 2316 Georgetown Road, across from the Speedway. Poor Wilbur was killed and Arnold and his mechanic, Spider Matlock, were injured. Arnold with a fractured pelvis and Matlock with a broken shoulder.

For 1932 Hartz again had a two cars at Indianapolis. Arnold was again back in the Summers-Miller. Arnold started 2nd, moved into the lead on lap 2 and then led until lap 59 when he crashed badly. This time it was Arnold who sustained a broken shoulder and "Spider" Matlock a fractured pelvis. The exact opposite of the injuries sustained the previous year.

After the race his wife delivered an ultimatum, either quit racing or she was getting a divorce. Arnold never raced again.

He served in World War 2, where he rose to the rank of Colonel. Later he became an engineer for Chrysler and then opened and auto dealership. He later went into both the lumber and construction businesses. He is also well remembered for his work in the water-ski industry, being an early pioneer in the sport.

Died of a brain haemorrhage in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1976.