Bill Holland, winner of the 1949 Indianapolis 500, won a sprint car race in Springfield a decade later. Drivers competed on a half mile dirt track at the fairgrounds over two days. The races were held in conjunction with the Ozark Empire Fair and were sanctioned by the IMCA (International Motor Contest Association).
Drivers complained that poor track conditions led to a spectacular crash on the first day of competition, Saturday, August 15, 1959. Large ruts, some two feet deep, were scattered around the track. Holland told the local newspaper, “You could ride around there all day and not get a lap you like.” The car driven by Fritz Tegtmeier, a former mayor of Elgin, Illinois, flipped through a retaining wall and plunged twenty feet before landing on a black top road outside the race track. Tegtmeier was not seriously injured, but spent the night in Burge Hospital for observation. He returned to the track as a spectator the next day. The track was watered and graded before the start of the 15-lap main event. Paul Folse of Tampa, Florida, the IMCA points leader, won the race. Holland finished second, but was the bigger hit with fans. The Indy winner signed autographs for a large crowd of spectators after the race.
A broken crankshaft prevented Folse from competing the next day. Holland won the feature after two drivers ahead of him experienced mechanical failures. Holland’s victory was marred by another serious accident. Victor Valentine’s car crashed through a fence and landed amid a group of children who were watching the race. Four of the children were transported to Burge hospital, but none were critically injured.
Holland enjoyed a long and successful career in open wheel racing. Holland won over 150 sprint car races and even competed in a few NASCAR events. He was a popular visitor to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for several years after his retirement. Holland passed away in Tucson, Arizona on May 20, 1984. He was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2005.
The 94th running of the Indianapolis 500, “the greatest spectacle in racing,” will be held on May 30, 2010.
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