8-Time Badger Midget Champ Billy Wood Dead At 79

Billy Wood Badger Midget’s most prolific driving Champion dead at 79
Kenosha, Wis., Nov. 11—Billy Wood, the only driver to win Badger Midget Auto Racing Association (BMARA) Driver Championship eight times, died Sunday morning at his home, after battling throat cancer. Born on January 26, 1928 in Marrietta, Mississippi, he was the son of the late General and Alice (Thornton) Wood. He attended schools in Mississippi before moving to Kenosha looking for work. He was employed at American Motors Company for over 38 years ? retiring on July 29, 1987.

Wood began his career racing in the Badger Midget Series in 1953, finishing third in series points. The next season Wood outdistanced defending series champion Billy Johnson for his first Badger crown. His 1955 title was aided by eight feature wins at Angell Park Speedway (Sun Prairie,Wis.). His third and fourth titles in 1957, and ’58 were won by narrow margins of twenty-five and six points.

His finest season came in 1959 when he won 18 Badger features and set fast time 17 times in the 24-race series. His fourth consecutive title came the next season, after which Wood ran only a few Badger events over the next six years, instead spending time on his career at AMC, with his family and running various other events. He finished tenth in the 1962 USAC National Midget Car Series point standings.

Car owner Paul Krueger convinced Wood to run his car for the 1966 Badger campaign. Wood edged his teammate Keith Thomas for his seventh championship. Wood’s final Badger title came in 1968 in a season plagued by rainouts, Wood edged second-year driver Bill Engelhart for the title by eight points. Wood ran a handful of races the next two years before retiring.

His eight Badger titles came driving for four different car owners: Herb King (’54, ’55), Frank Farchione (’57, ’58, ’60), Irv Paulsen (’59), and Krueger (’66, ’68). Wood’s 52 career Angell Park Speedway feature wins rank him second all-time trailing only Dan Boorse. Wood also scored feature wins in USAC National, UARA, Midwest, and open competition sanctioned events.

Wood remained a spectator attending most Badger events over the next 35-plus seasons, including the 2007 season finale on Sept.1 at Angell Park. Wood was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in August 2002.

He is survived by his wife, Beverly; three sons: Dr. Thomas (Rae) Wood of Franksville, Jerald (Jodie) Wood, and B.G. Wood ? both of Kenosha; two brothers, Travis Wood of Wrightsville, GA, and Wayne (Maureen) Wood of Fulton, MS; and a sister, Carolyn (Ray) Underwood of Iuka, MS. Billy is also survived by six loving grandchildren: Abbigail (Paul) Hampton, Jennifer, Lauren, Mackenzie, Jarrett and Jordan. Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by two brothers, Tramel and Cratis Wood.

A visitation for Billy will be hosted on Tuesday from 4:00 until 8:00 PM at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider memorial remembrances to the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, C/O Bill Engelhart, Treasurer, 13930 W. Northridge Dr., Evansville, WI 53536; or Hospice Alliance. 10220 Prairie Ridge Blvd., Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158. Piasecki-Althaus Funeral Home, 3720 39th Avenue, Kenosha, Wisconsin 53144, 262-658-4101.

Funeral Services will be held on Wednesday, November 14, 2007. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM at St. Mary Catholic Church, 7400 ? 39th Avenue. Interment will follow in St. James Cemetery.

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