Bill Cantrell [1985]
by David Greene

Bill Cantrell
Wild Bill Remembers

Bill Cantrell became involved with the Gold Cup class in 1939 when he competed with his Why Worry in the Gold Cup at Detroit. Cantrell failed to finish a heat, but was out in front while running in two heats in which he made a start. In 1940 Bill entered another Gold Cup event at Washington in the President's Cup, but was far behind the field. After the war in 1946 he again participated in the Gold Cup class at Washington and ran well in second place before expiring.

After spending 1947 driving limiteds, Bill Cantrell was selected to drive the Hacker-designed My Sweetie in 1948. The Sweetie completed only one heat that year, but gave a portent of things to come by running out in front nearly all of the time that her engine was healthy. Cantrell's finest year was in 1949 as he won five of six races including the Gold Cup en route to a High Point Championship. In addition, Cantrell and the Sweetie won one heat free for all events at Red Bank, Buffalo, and Louisville that year.

Bill Cantrell started off 1950 as he ended 1949 by winning the Maple Leaf Trophy, but first the Slo-mo-shun IV and then the twin engined Miss Pepsi came along to make the My Sweetie a second place boat. Still the Sweetie won the Ford Memorial and second consecutive High Point Championship. Cantrell finished out the year by winning a four heat, three boat, non High Point affair at Las Vegas.

Cantrell was given a new boat to drive each year over the next four years by successively Horace Dodge (1951), Jack Schafer (1952-53), and Joe Schoenith 0 954) with a corresponding down turn in performance until late 1954 and early 1955 when Cantrell with Schoenith's Gale IV won three of six races. The previous three years were not without their moments for Bill Cantrell as he won at New Martinsville in 1951 with a new My Sweetie, at Pittsburgh in 1952 aboard Such Crust IV, and again at New Martinsville in 1953 with Such Crust V. The first two events did not qualify for High Point consideration since they did not have the requisite four starters although they did consist of more than one heat.

In 1956 Bill again was provided with another new boat, the second Gale V. Unfortunately, the boat was wild and rough riding and did not provide Cantrell with a victory in either 1956 or 1957. Another Gale V was built in 1958 and, although Allison powered, proved quite competitive in that year and 1959. In 1960 the Gale team went to a twin staged supercharger setup for their Allisons and again Bill won three of six races in a period of 1960-61. The third Gale V was run until 1964 when the Schoenith's built a new boat sponsored by Smirnoff Vodka for Cantrell. Bill brought the boat along step by step that year and won the President's Cup at 56 years of age being the oldest man to win an Unlimited race. Another accident interrupted Bill's career in 1965 and shortly thereafter he decided to retire from driving.

However, this was not the end of Bill Cantrell's career. The Smirnoff was a result of his ideas along with Lee Schoenith's and in 1971 the two men came up with the design of the new Atlas Van Lines that year. The hull won two of eight races in 1971 before nearly sweeping the circuit in 1972. The Atlas proved to be two m.p.h. faster in qualifying and competition lap speed and was three m.p.h. faster in terms of heat speed in relation to previous designs. After the Schoeniths retired in 1975, Cantrell remained in the sport until 1983 as co-owner of the former My Gypsy he helped design.

(Reprinted with permission from the Unlimited NewsJournal, May 1985, "Unlimited Hall of Fame")


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