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Herb Hill?


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#1 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 17:43

Occasionally, a recent driver causes me no end of hassle trying to find out his details.

Now, originally, I had down that Herb Hill, erstwhile sprint racer was from Redlands, California & was born in 1921.
However that chap has died a month ago & was a nuclear biologist. His obits said nothing about a racing career, however short and whilst I accept this is not necessarily an automatic rule-out, it does make me ponder.

However, I have seen Hill as being from Redlands, as he won a race in 1941. However he also raced stockcars in the mid 50's, and was registered as being from Las Vegas, NV. Then in 1962 he was back in the frey & coming from McHenry, Illinois. Finally, he raced in 1964 as being from Indianapolis, Indiana!!!!

So, are there four Herb Hills? Is the 1941 man the same as the 1962 (and Indy 500 attemptee, hence my interest) man? Is the 1950 man the same as either?
Is the man who has just died THE Herb Hill? If not, who on earth is?

Ideas anyone?

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#2 fines

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 22:45

NOT easy! :D

All I have on Herb Hill is that he won the 1955 ARA (American Racing Assoc.) Sprint Car title, a (Northern) California championship, then appeared at a couple of USAC Sprints in the Midwest the following year, e.g. Winchester (IN) on May 20 - perhaps explainable by him straying around Indy, trying to fetch a ride? Next he appears in a few USAC Champ Car events in 1959 (IL, WI & IN), in a car owned by Robert "Pete" Peterson, who hailed from Chicago I think? The car was called Hill Carpets Special, so my money is on Herb sponsoring his own ride, and selling carpets "at daytime". This combo appears again three years later (IN & WI), then Hill is succeeded in the cockpit by Ralphie Liguori (FL), Bill Cheesbourg (AZ) and George Morris (IN) - so, a hotchpotch of localities, not really conclusive. :

#3 Jim Thurman

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 17:16

Congratulations Richie, you've brought up one I intended to contact you about, but had not yet as it would only add to confusion :D

I believe there were definitely two if not three different drivers named Herb Hill.

In the 1949 West Coast Racing Annual, a Herb Hill is profiled in the Stock Car section. He is described as 36 years old (meaning b. 1912 or 1913), that he began racing in (Track) Roadsters at "the old Ascot" in 1941 (in this case, this refers to Southern Ascot Speedway). He is listed as owning the Hill Transportation Co. and also owning and operating a business selling motorscooters - Skooterland - which was located on Firestone Boulevard (I believe a listing in the SSDI of b. 17 Mar 1912, d. 15 Nov 1988 to likely be this man).

I think the Herb Hill listed for the NASCAR race is likely this Herb Hill, but not the same as the Herb Hill that raced in the Midwest and attempted the Indy 500.

Now, to the 1955 ARA champion mentioned by Michael. Despite being somewhat close regionally (about 450-500 miles North of the Los Angeles area), I have my doubts this is the same man as the Stock Car driver I mention above. It's too bad this did not come up earlier as Don Radbruch would have been well acquainted with the ARA Herb Hill.

I believe he might have relocated to the Midwest, but I also believe there was a Herb Hill of Midwestern origins.

There, that certainly clears it all up!

Obviously, I don't know a lot either...

#4 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 19:28

Well, I think we're all agreed that the chap who has just died was no racing driver, so that's one set of dates that can go in the dustbin.

If one is a transporter & the other a carpet man, I also wonder if there are two. But aside from that, it appears doubtful that the Herb Hill that I, essentially, am interested in is neither of the Herb Hills listed below??

I think I may go back to making that entry blank. It's a shame the 1962 Indy guy has no more info on him other than being from McHenry.

Thanks guys for the input. Better raise the mystery bar by one again.. :

#5 fines

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 21:07

Not so fast, Richie...

For one thing, I'm pretty certain that the guy I profiled in my post is just one person! There may have been another one racing touring (sorry, stock!) cars, but that's outside my scope, and the data for the open-wheel man is quite consistent: outlaw champion in '55, then taking a chance with the new "openness" of USAC in '56, banging about for a few years before giving it all up. Heck, there are even a few years in between in which he could have raced stockers!

Also, I think he may well have been from Redlands: in that era, if you wanted to run Sprint Cars and were from So. Cal., you simply HAD to travel north to meet the ARA guys! He may then have relocated to the Midwest to have a go at Indy, before returning to California and nuclear biology! Also, don't forget that drivers are sometimes listed under the hometown of their entrants!!! I have seen literally hundreds of such examples! So, the "Indy Herb" is listed as coming from McHenry (IL), and his car owner I have (tentatively) from Chicago (IL) - coincidence?

#6 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 06:01

Originally posted by fines
Not so fast, Richie...

Also, I think he may well have been from Redlands: in that era, if you wanted to run Sprint Cars and were from So. Cal., you simply HAD to travel north to meet the ARA guys! He may then have relocated to the Midwest to have a go at Indy, before returning to California and nuclear biology!


Surely there would have been something about the 2008 man's career, or carpet background or transporting background in the obituary?

The 2008 man appears to have gone into it from college. I really don't think it's the same man or men as the above speedsters.

#7 Jim Thurman

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 19:09

Originally posted by fines


Also, I think he may well have been from Redlands: in that era, if you wanted to run Sprint Cars and were from So. Cal., you simply HAD to travel north to meet the ARA guys! He may then have relocated to the Midwest to have a go at Indy, before returning to California and nuclear biology!

Not so fast, Michael :D...

Granted the CRA was still a mix of roadsters and Sprints through 1955 or 1956, but if the ARA was thought of as the place one HAD to race, that's news to me. And, true, the CRA's "glory days" were from the late 50's to mid-60's, but other than CRA drivers heading North to "cherry pick" some purses, I don't recall a lot of interchange (this with the caveat that I haven't seen much in the way of results from ARA races from '52 until it after morphed into NARC. Phil Harms mentioned he was considering compiling ARA/NARC winners).

The ARA/NARC was always perceived as the weaker circuit, albeit with some very talented drivers, some good owners and some good wrenches. And I'm not being chauvinistic coming from a Southern California background (I've lived in both regions) :)

I've put out a query on Herb Hill(s). Hopefully this won't cause even more confusion.

Oh, and one other bit of info...the Herb Hill listed as residing in McHenry, Illinois was ranked 149th in USAC National Midget standings in 1965.

#8 fines

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 20:40

Gosh, clean forgot about CRA!!! :blush: Complete mental blackout, I'm afraid... :|

Of course you're right with everything you say, Jim! And to think that Herb Hill also raced Track Roadsters... I could (should?) kick myself! :D