Bill Holland

William Holland

1907 (Dec 18) – 1984 (May 19)

AAA Big Cars 1936 – 1954

At 26 a comparative late starter in racing, Holland quickly rose through the ranks and after finishing third in GSARA points in 1937, he made the bold step to compete in AAA the next year, almost immediately finding the way to victory circle at Mineola on July 30! The following year he relocated to New York to forge a strong bond with NY car owner Ralph Malamud, and for the next ten years Bill and the white Malamud sprinter became a common synonym for success. He very nearly snatched the crown off Joie Chitwood’s head in 1940, and in 1941 he finally did it, but that was the year when most of the regular eastern stars were competing with the CSRA, and so the public took little notice.

Failing to attract the attention of an Indy Car owner even after his great year in 1946, Holland finally lucked in when Tony Bettenhausen decided to join the ASPAR strike for more money at Indy in 1947, with his car owner Lou Moore showing little sympathy – he invited Bill to take Tony’s place! The rest, as they say, is history, and a week later he took pole position and won on his first Champ Car appearance to boot, all this while well on his way to another Sprint Car title! Somehow, though, during the summer he “lost the plot” and dropped away in the standings, ending the year 2nd, 7th and 11th in the three Big Car points chases, soundly beaten by Ted Horn and, apparently, himself.

Already was he beginning to divert his attention to his business interests, a number of skating rinks from Connecticut to Arizona (he had been a successful skater himself in his youth), and this may well have contributed to the sorry saga of his racing career. Sublimely talented, but somehow arrogantly he tried to “milk” race promoters for appearance deals, failing to show up or “phoning in” his performance on a number of occasions when his dealings went awry. Not only squandering his chances of another championship, he also slowly but surely acquired the wrath of AAA officialdom which finally cried enough in the fall of 1950, and Holland was suspended for a year, earning himself an extension when he complained through the media!

Keeping busy by buying and running the old Malamud in IMCA and CSRA events, Holland returned to AAA in 1953 and shocked everybody by qualifying second at Indy in a car he sat in for the first time that very day! In the summer, he won three more Sprint Car races, but the following year his form tailed off again and, based on previous experience, car owners in general weren’t overly keen on him anyway, so that was that. In 1958, now in his fifties, Holland returned for a couple of years to run IMCA and URC sprints and even won some, but the overall verdict must be: a talent wasted…

© Michael Ferner