28/2/1930 - 5/1/1965
Record updated 28-Feb-07
Billy Wade was a three time Texas Modified Champion and twice winner of the Texas Late Model Championship who switched to NASCAR with Cotton Owens in 1963. In 1964 driving for Bud Moore he won four races in a row and finished the season 4th in the points. He was killed at Daytona doing tyre testing in 1965.
Billy Wade was born in Houston, Texas. He started racing in the early 1950s and was a three time Texas Modified Champion and twice winner of the Texas Late Model Championship. Billy also raced sprint cars and sports cars. In 1962 he did four NASCAR races and Cotton Owens saw enough to sign him up for 1963.
Driving a Dodge for Cotton Owens, he started the year by winning a qualifying sprint race at Riverside in January. He finshed second in a 250 mile race at Nashville and in the Atlanta 500 he came from 16th on the grid to challenge and pass Junior Johnson for the lead. Unfortunately tire wear eventually pushed him back down the field. He finished the season with 14 Top 10 finishes in 31 races and won the NASCAR Rookie of the Year award.
He went into 1994 with Cotton Owens but three races in, when Joe Weatherly, Bud Moore's number one driver, crashed at Riverside International Raceway suffering fatal head injuries, he switched to driving for Moore in a Mercury. Between July 10 and July 19 he won four consecutive races and also accumulated 5 poles and 25 top 10 finishes in his 35 starts, ending the year in 4th place in the Championship with earnings of $36,095.
Tragically, he died during a tire test at Daytona International Raceway in 1965. Reportedly, Wade was earning $200 a day for the tests to develop a tire inner liner. Billy Wade died of internal injuries in a crash during a tire test session for Goodyear. He was still strapped into his seat, but the seat had come loose from its mountings, crushing Wade into the steering wheel causing fatal internal injuries.