Thursday 3rd January 1980
Sprintcar builder and Indy 500 crew chief Wally Meskowski died at the age of 64. A colorful and formidable competitor, Meskowski is best remembered as a constructor, mechanic and car owner with the ability to extract the highest levels of performance from car and driver alike. Despite a reputation for volatility that was not entirely deserved, Meskowski consistently attracted the most competitive drivers, and was instrumental in their development, among them A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and Bill Vukovich, Jr.
In late 1959, Meskowski was engaged to build a new dirt Champ car for the Bowes Seal Fast team of legendary chief mechanic George Bignotti and co-owner Bob Bowes II, for the 1960 USAC season. Completed in early 1960, the new car was a masterful blend of art and engineering, with a beautiful, streamlined body that was strongly reminiscent of the dual-purpose cars of the early 1950s, which competed on both dirt ovals and the venerable “Brickyard”, prior to the rise of the specialized Indy roadster.
Wally died as the ultimate result of injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident while traveling with the Armstrong Moulds team. Returning home from Texas World Speedway, the motor home in which he was a passenger was struck broadside by a tractor-trailer. Wally survived for about 10 months then died in Indianapolis.