He holds the record for the most cars passed on the first lap of the Indianapolis 500 and soldiered home 10th once in the Novi but Bill Cheesbourg will best be remembered as a skilled journeyman driver who would give anything with four wheels a try.
‘Cheese’ competed six times at Indy from 1957-65 with his best finish of 10th in 1958 in Andy Granatelli’s Novi, despite being involved in the multi-car, first-lap accident that wound up breaking his sway bar. He began his Indy career the year before at age 30 and overcame the emotional trauma of losing his 2-year-old son to a reaction from penicillin and came back to qualify for his first race.
He started 30th in 1959 but wasn’t there for long as he swept past 17 cars on the opening lap and got all the way into the top 5 before losing a magneto.
Bill’s best ride came in 1961 when he drove the Dean Van Lines Special for Clint Brawner and qualified ninth but was eliminated in a crash. His final start came in 1965 and after missing the show with a couple of clunkers in 1966, he went back to his home in Tuscon and began racing stock cars – winning a feature when he was 73 years old. He died in 1995 at age 68.