14/4/1912 - 3/1/1988
Record updated 07-Feb-23
Better known for his thrill shows, the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, he competed in the Indianapolis 500 seven times, finishing fifth three times.
Born in Denison, Texas of Cherokee Indian ancestry, George Rice Chitwood was dubbed Joie by a track promoter and the name stuck.
Chitwood started racing in 1934 at a dirt track in Winfield, Kansas. From there, he began racing at tracks all over the United States mid-west and between 1940 and 1950 competed at the Indianapolis 500 seven times finishing fifth on three different occasions including for the Kurtis Kraft racing team in 1950 when it was a Formula one event. He was the first man ever to wear a safety belt at the Indy 500.
Chitwood also operated the "Joie Chitwood Thrill Show", an exhibition of auto stunt driving that became so successful he gave up racing. Often called "Hell Drivers," he had five troops that for more than forty years toured across North America thrilling audiences in large and small towns alike with their death-defying automobile stunts.
His show was so popular, that in January of 1967, the performance at the Islip, New York Speedway was broadcast on ABC television's Wide World of Sports. On May 13, 1978, Joie Chitwood set a world record when he drove a Chevrolet Chevette for 5.6 miles on just 2 wheels. An eight year old Robert Craig 'Evel' Knievel attended one of Chitwood's shows, which he credited for his decision to become a motorcycle daredevil.
Chitwood's sons, Joie Jr. and Tim both joined the auto thrill show. Today, they run the "Joie Chitwood Chevy Thunder Show" and grandson, Joie Chitwood III, is the Senior Vice-President of business affairs for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As well, Chitwood was frequently hired by Hollywood film studios to either do stunt driving for films or to act as auto-stunt coordinator. On a few occasions he appeared in a minor role, notably with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck in the 1950 film about the Indy 500 titled To Please a Lady.
When Joie Chitwood retired, his sons took over the business.
He passed away at the age of 73 in Tampa Bay, Florida.
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