William Marvin Whittington[1] (September 11, 1949 – April 23, 2021) was an American racing driver from Lubbock, Texas, who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and competed five times in the Indianapolis 500.

Career

1979 24 Hours of Le Mans race-winning Porsche 935 co-driven by the Whittingtons

Whittington, together with his brother Don Whittington and the German professional Klaus Ludwig, multiple winner at Le Mans and elsewhere, competed in the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 935. As the brothers did not have substantial racing experience prior to the late 1970s.[2] Bill's brother Dale Whittington also competed in open wheel racing. Together with Randy Lanier they owned the Blue Thunder Racing Team in 1984, with Marty Hinze. Bill also raced in the Indianapolis 500 five times with a best finish of 14th in 1985.

Bill made two NASCAR Winston Cup starts in 1980, earning an 8th in his debut at Riverside International Raceway (besting brother Don by one spot) and then 32nd in the Daytona 500.

The Whittingtons raced aircraft prior to cars, Bill having won races at Reno between 1978 and 1983. They were the owners of the Road Atlanta circuit.

In 1986, Bill pleaded guilty to income tax evasion and conspiracy to smuggle marijuana into the United States from Colombia and was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to surrender $7 million in property and other assets. In 1987, his brother Don Whittington pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in association with his brother's activities.[3] In addition to Bill and Don Whittington, Lanier, John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr. were part of the IMSA drug smuggling scandal of the 1980s, where a number of drivers financed their racing activities with the proceeds from drug smuggling.[4]

Death

At age 71, Whittington died in an airplane crash near Winslow, Arizona, on April 23, 2021.[5][6] According to Randy Lanier and other acquaintances contacted by Autoweek, Whittington owned the aircraft, and was the pilot on the accident flight. Lanier said that Whittington was giving a ride to an unidentified friend who "was terminally ill with cancer and had lost his pilot's license," and that he "wanted to give him an experience of flying again."[7]

The accident aircraft was a Swearingen SA226-T(B) Merlin IIIB, aircraft registration N59EZ; it was destroyed when it impacted terrain under unknown circumstances.[8] FlightAware shows the aircraft taking off from Scottsdale Airport and flying northeast near Winslow before crashing just north of Interstate 40 on a desert road.[9] The accident is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.[6]

Indianapolis 500 results

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1980 Parnelli Cosworth 27th 30th
1981 March Cosworth 27th 21st
1982 March Cosworth 6th 16th
1983 March Cosworth 15th 18th
1985 March Cosworth 12th 14th

24 Hours of Le Mans results

Year Team Co-Drivers Car Class Laps Pos. Class
Pos.
1978 United States Whittington Bros. Racing Austria Franz Konrad
United States Don Whittington
Porsche 935/77 Gr. 5
+2.0
41 DNF DNF
1979 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing Germany Klaus Ludwig
United States Don Whittington
Porsche 935 K3 Gr. 5
+2.0
307 1st 1st
1981 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing United States Ted Field
United States Don Whittington
Porsche 935 K3 Gr. 5 57 DNF DNF
1982 Germany Porsche Kremer Racing United States Ted Field
United States Danny Ongais
Porsche-Kremer CK5 C 25 DNF DNF

References

  1. ^ "United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. William Whittington, Defendant-appellant, 918 F.2d 149 (11th Cir. 1990)". Law.justia.com. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  2. ^ Baime, A. J. "The Untold Story of Randy Lanier, Indy 500 Star and Drug Smuggler". Maxim.com. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  3. ^ SPORTS PEOPLE; Whittingtons Sentenced, New York Times, January 6, 1986, Retrieved 2011-04-21
  4. ^ Siano, Joseph. Auto Racing; Paul Returns From Prison, New York Times, February 5, 1989, Retrieved 2011-04-21
  5. ^ Miller, Robin; Pruett, Marshall (April 25, 2021). "Bill Whittington, 1949-2021". Racer.com. Racer Media & Marketing, Inc. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "NCSO: 2 people dead after a plane crash near Winslow". KNXV-TV. Associated Press. April 24, 2021.
  7. ^ Cole Smith, Steven (April 15, 2021). "Former IndyCar, Sports Car Racer Bill Whittington Killed in Plane Crash". www.autoweek.com. Autoweek. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  8. ^ Aviation Safety Network. "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 253831". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  9. ^ "N59EZ Flight Tracking and History".

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1979 with:
Klaus Ludwig
Don Whittington
Succeeded by