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Bucko
Site Owner
Posts: 51

Does anyone know more about the circumstances surrounding the death of funny car driver Billy Grooms? He was killed at US 30 drag strip in Gary, Indiana, driving his "Super Duster" Plymouth funny car during a Coke Cavalcade of Stars race there in 1974.  (question sent in by Mike Golonka)

October 9, 2010 at 5:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Kathy Rizzo
Member
Posts: 1

I'll tell yeah! I was out of town the day of the tragedy of Billy Grooms, but I can tell you what caused the accident. What happened was when he left on green, he left hard and the chassis broke on him and hit the guardrail hard and killed Billy. Billy was a friend of mine and he was actually the chief mechanic on The Super Duster F/C and Terry Hendricks I believe was the owner and I know that he was the driver, but what had happened was Terry had broken his leg and then Billy Grooms took over the driving with very little or no experience at all and that was it! I had a feeling that he was going to get killed and by golly if he didn't. It was no surprise at all to me but I do miss him and RIP my friend. So that is what happened. Kathy Rizzo

February 17, 2011 at 3:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

BGrooms
Member
Posts: 3

Thanks for the site in honoring those who have lost their life doing what they love. Felt compelled to answer Mike's question especially after reading the above reply. Billy Grooms is my father and I was 9 when his accident occured. Through the internet I've been fortunate enough to meet people who knew Dad, raced against him and find people that were there that day. Even met a gentleman who had the wreck on video, which I have a copy of. The comment above that my Dad took over the driving “with little or no experience” is true as anyone is when they get behind the wheel of any vehicle but that is not true at the time of his accident. My Dad began his racing carrier in the early 60’s driving a series of cars named the Black Trash, one was a A/FX car. In the 1972 season, he began driving Pat Brinegar’s Arkansas Razorback nitro Funny Car and won the Funny Car eliminator class at the All American Drags at Beech Bend that year. In 1973 Gary Henderson, who was driving the Super Duster, did break his foot and my Dad took over the driving duties. He completed the 1973 season and in 1974 he drove the Super Duster full time. He and Gary ended up purchasing the operation that season.  They were part of the Cavalcade of Stars and were participants in many events prior to his accident. Many times Dad posted 6 second runs at over 200 mph so again I question the “very little or no experience” statement made above at the time of his death. Comments received from other racers at Gary that day is no one truly knows the answer to what caused the accident but it was not due to driver error. He did end up hitting a light pole and was ejected from the car. The car caught fire due to the impact with the light pole as well. In memory of Dad we are currently running a nostalgia nitro funny car under the banner Get Ready, we have a Duster body currently in the works to replicate the Super Duster and will run it in memory of our father Billy Grooms as well. Again thank you for the site and my best to all.

Regards,

Bruce Grooms

Get Ready Racing

Matt. 24:44

November 24, 2011 at 7:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

anonymous
Member
Posts: 1

Thanks for posting a reply Bruce. I know you and I have talked several times and I look forward to you getting the duster out. Jim Isbell and I bought a later version of the Super Duster when it was in Gary's possession and I think Moore & Chisolm owned it. Even though I knew Gary I never got a chance to meet Billy and feel that he was a great person from what I've heard from those that knew him. I hate that you had to go through life without him in your life but feel he is very proud of what you're trying to do.

January 25, 2012 at 5:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Randy
Member
Posts: 1

Bruce, I was there that day. In Chicago. The owners of the "Super Duster had bout a truck and trailor in California. They had an accident where the truck hand the brakes go bad and when the truck crashed the Funny Car hit the front of the trailor and broke the die rod end. They got another truck and drove to Chicago. I was getting fuel for Gordon Mineo. I walked by and your Dad was leaning on the side of a truck. They were Gas Welding the tie rod. I asked your Dad, "Billy, you are not going to drive that car like that are you?" He just laughed and said it would be alright. He ran the first round and the tie rod broke while he was stopping the car.  I saw, again, they were gas welding the tie rod. I asked your Dad again not to drive the car. He again said it would be fine. I went to get Gordon and we both went down and talked to Billy. Billy insited on driving the car. We were the car in front of him. We sheard a fuel pump pin and had to roll the car back and let your Dad go up. He was running the Tennesse Bowivel Car. Your dad was in the left lane. I was taking the fuel pump off when they took off. I looked up and at half track your Dads car took a hard 90 degree turn. He never let out of the throttle. He hit the guard rail, went through the stands and hit a light pole. It was a terrible site. It made Gordon and I sick. We all loaded up and left the track in honor of your Dad. God bless you.


March 28, 2012 at 7:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

BGrooms
Member
Posts: 3

Thanks Randy.  The accident in the truck when the brakes went out happened on his birthday July 17.  My daughter's birthday too.  He called my Mom at her Flower shop after it happened and I got to talk with him briefly.  All I remember is hearing sirens in the background.  I've sent you a private message.  Take care and be safe everyone. 

April 5, 2012 at 7:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

ether T9
Member
Posts: 1

I'm 62; but on July 21, 1974 I was 24. I had been to many drag races before that day; and many since. But when I spotted - by accident - this web site, I was taken back to that day I will never forget. When one witnesses a tragedy, one thinks about it less and less as time goes on. But - one never forgets ... even the littlest detail. When I attend NHRA events, I always sit nearest the start line. I did as well at US 30 on that day. But I always take a walk, usually by myself, as friends and/or family want to stay where they are, to the end of the track to watch the colorful blur as 300+ mph cars go by. I did that very thing at US 30 right before Billy Grooms launched. I always notice the cars moving before I hear the sound as sound travels slower than light. Billy was in his Duster in the left lane. Near half track, he went through a series of left and right gyrations. In retrospect, I thought it odd he never lifted as he was wildly swinging left and right. His last swing was to his right and he impacted one of the wooden light poles there. The car disintegrated immediately. I was on Billy's side of the track; but ran across the track right away to see if I could retrieve him from the many fire pockets burning. I knew track personnel would frown on this; but I also knew no one else was around and fire harms very quickly. The weeds were 2-3 feet tall and burning in many places. The first thing I saw was the engine in a pocket of fire. I could not find any remnants of the car ... or the driver. As the emergency crews - and, right behind them, family - arrived, I saw him laying stomach down bent over a steel cable that was strung between 2 metal poles. He had been ejected. His helmet was gone. The rest of the description of his condition need not be mentioned. But - next came the worst part. As they picked his lifeless body up, what I thought to be his wife and 2 daughters saw everything and started screaming. I went back to my friend at the start line and was asked "what happened ... what did you see?" I remember distinctly saying "I just want to go home." While we can't change history; or tragedies like this from happening; we can use those tragedies for good. This event, and others, caused me to look to our Creator for my strength. Billy ... you didn't die in vain. RIP.   

June 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

BGrooms
Member
Posts: 3

Thanks ether T9 for sharing. Did cringe in reading how they found him though and for the lady and children there. Glad to read that Dad's accident had part in leading you to our creator. May God continue to bless you and all here. Get Ready Racing Matt. 24:44

June 5, 2012 at 10:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Glenn
Member
Posts: 1

I just found the site today, very fitting homage for those martyrs of drag racing. Bruce, I remember your dad well. As a car-crazy 16 to 18 year-old, I saw him run the 'Black Trash III' Plymouth at Lakeland Raceway at Memphis. I talked with him only briefly once in the pits, but remember him and the car to this day. I only have one surviving blurry photo of the car.

December 12, 2014 at 2:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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