Related Links:
INDY 500 MEMORIAL - 1929
Home           Contact             About              Site Map            Privacy                               Copyright © 2015   All Rights Reserved
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Fatalities - May 1929
William Spence - driver
From the day that Bill Spence rode with Babe Stapp in a
race in Toledo in 1925, racing was Spence's number one
priority. Bill started his career with a revamped "flivver."
He was a favorite on Southern California tracks, and his
main competition had been
Lou Moore in races in the
LA area. In 1928, he was the dirt track champion of the
Pacific Coast and had won his last race at Ascot on
Easter in L.A.

He moved up to the Indianapolis 500 in 1928. He drove a
Boyle Valve Special as a relief driver for
Billy Arnold,
who finished 7th.  In 1929, Spence wanted to drive the
entire race by himself and he got an Indianapolis-built
Duesenberg special.

On race day, as Bill flew around the track, the trailing ends
of the hankerchief that he wore inside his cap made him
look (according to an Indianapolis Star reporter) like the
winged god Mercury, a fitting speed symbol for this young
and promising race driver.

On the 14th lap of the 200-lap race, his car swerved and
the rear end hit the inner wall of the SE turn at over 100
mph.  The car completely overturned, threw Spence out,
righted itself, and went down the track backwards.
Spence, who had fractured his skull when he hit the brick
track, died on the way to the City Hospital.

This accident was caught on film by the makers of the
1929 silent film "Speedway" and the horrific crash can
be seen in the last reel.

His death was the first that had occurred in the race itself
since 1919. His death wasn't announced at the race, but
appeared in the newspaper later. Spence was from Los
Angeles and he left a wife, Vivian, and his parents.

Fred Duesenberg commented, "He was a nice boy and
had lots of nerve. I think he was trying to make up lost time
when the accident occurred." It didn't appear that the wreck
was caused by mechanical failure.
Spence's Indy Record
William Spence
Year   Car No.     Car                    Laps Completed             Start    Finish
1928      43          Boyle Valve       Relieved Arnold                
1929      10          Duesenberg     14-wrecked SE, died        12        32
Forest Lawn Memorial Park_Glendale_CA