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William John Vukovich Sr. won the 1953 and 1954 Indianapolis 500 plus two more American Automobile Association National Championship races. He is considered by many to be the greatest ever in American motorsport. In 1952, in his sophomore year at the Speedway, he started on the third row and moved to quickly take the lead. He led 150 laps before suffering a steering failure on the 192nd of the 200 laps. He returned to win the 500 in 1953 and 1954, leading an astounding 71.7% of laps that he drove in competition at the 500.
In the 1955 Indianapolis 500 Vukovich was killed in a chain-reaction crash while holding a 17-second lead on the 57th lap of the race. It was a three-car accident on the back straight involving Roger Ward, Al Keller, and Johnny Boyd. Vukovich’s car went over the outside wall and became airborne. It cartwheeled multiple times landing on top of a group of parked cars before coming to rest upside down and bursting into flames. Ed Elisian stopped his undamaged car and raced towards Vukovich in an attempt to save him. It did not matter; Vukovich had perished instantly.