19/8/1926 - 26/10/2003
A native of Fresno, Calif., Boyd followed his idol, Bill Vukovich Sr., to Indianapolis, only to be involved in the crash that took Vukovich's life. John Boyd died 19 years ago, he was 77 , He would have been 96.
A native of Fresno, Calif., Boyd followed his idol, Bill Vukovich Sr., to Indianapolis, only to be involved in the crash that took Vukovich's life.
Vukovich was attempting to race his way into a third straight win at Indy in 1955. In lap 57, Rodger Ward's axel broke, causing his car to spin out of control and overturn. As Boyd tried to avoid Ward's overturned car, he drove right into Vukovich's path. Vukovich hit him broadside, sheered off Boyd's rear wheel then sailed over the wall. Vukovich's car flipped once, smashed nose-first into the ground and exploded.
Rodger Ward's axel broke, causing his car to spin out of control and overturn on the backstretch near the golfers bridge. Al Keller who had gone very low to the infield to avoid Ward's car, locked up his brakes and then slid in to Boyd, hitting his #39 Sumar Special on the left side sending him into the path of Vukovich. Boyd's car barrel rolled after contact with Vukovich and ended upside down with him pinned in the car with severe asphalt abrasions on his back. His car was righted and John was taken to an ambulance. Vukovich's car flipped once, smashed nose-first into the ground and exploded with tragic consequences.
Boyd continued racing after the accident and a third-place finish in the 1958 Indianapolis 500 was the highlight of his racing career. "He led for 18 laps (in 1958), but he didn’t lead the one he wanted," said Shirley Boyd, his wife of 28 years. "He told me, ‘I wouldn’t have changed anything, but I would have like to have led the last lap.’ He said that was the only thing he did not do in his lifetime that he wanted to do. Racing at Indy was his passion, his desire."
In June 1958, following his third place at the 1958 Indy 500, John was severely burned at Langhorn when a leak developed in his dirt car. Fuel got into the cockpit and due to the exhaust pipe being run under the rear axle instead of above as most all dirt cars were at that time, the fuel ignited. John had 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 45% of his body. John and his family played down the severity of his injuries and though he recovered enough later that season to win a 100 lap midget race (only his second race back), John had ugly scars on his legs, chest and back from skin grafts for the rest of his life.
He also finished fifth at Indy in 1964, sixth in both 1957 and 1959 and 10th in 1962. His best start was sixth in 1957. Boyd went on to drive in the 500 until 1966. He also drove in Indy-style races from 1952-66. His last start was on the road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1966. He failed to qualify at Indianapolis and Milwaukee in 1967 and he decided to call it a day.
Although he was ill, Boyd returned in May 2003 to the Speedway to attend the annual 500 Oldtimers/Hall of Fame banquet. He received the prestigious Oldtimers Club Louie Meyer Award for service to racing. He was elected to the Fresno Hall of Fame in 1966, was the first inductee into the Bay Cities Racing Association Hall of Fame and member of the Kings Speedway and Motor Sports Press Association Halls of Fame.
With thanks to Morris Caudle, John's Nephew for helping with this short bio