Joie Chitwood

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Joie Chitwood
Born(1912-04-14)April 14, 1912
Denison, Texas
DiedJanuary 3, 1988(1988-01-03) (aged 75)
Tampa Bay, Florida
Formula One World Championship career
NationalityUnited States American
Active years1950
TeamsKurtis Kraft
Career points1
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1950 Indianapolis 500
Last entry1950 Indianapolis 500

George Rice Chitwood (April 14, 1912 – January 3, 1988), nicknamed "Joie", was an American racecar driver and businessman. He is best known as a daredevil in the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show.

Born in Denison, Texas, he was of Cherokee Indian ancestry, he was dubbed "Joie" during his racing career after a newspaper reporter mis-took and misspelled his name in an article. The writer confused St. Joe, Missouri (where Chitwood's race car was built) with "George", and when it was typeset, added an "i" by mistake to spell "Joie." The nickname stuck for life.[1]

Racing career[edit]

Chitwood started his racecar driving career in 1934 at a dirt track in Winfield, Kansas. From there, he began racing sprint cars. In 1939 and 1940 he won the AAA East Coast Sprint car championship,[2] he switched to the CSRA and won its title in 1942.[2] Between 1940 and 1950 he competed at the Indianapolis 500 seven times, finishing fifth on three different occasions,[2] he was the first man ever to wear a safety belt at the Indy 500.[2]

Joie Chitwood Thrill Show[edit]

Chitwood also operated the "Joie Chitwood Thrill Show", an exhibition of auto stunt driving that became so successful he gave up racing. Often called "Hell Drivers," he had five units that for more than forty years toured across North America thrilling audiences in large and small towns alike with their death-defying automobile stunts.

His show was so popular, that in January 1967, the performance at the Islip Speedway, New York was broadcast on ABC television's Wide World of Sports.

On May 13, 1978, Joie Chitwood Jr. (b. Aug. 31, 1943) set a world record when he drove a Chevrolet Chevette for 5.6 miles (9.0 km) on just 2 wheels. His sons, Joie Jr. and Tim both joined the auto thrill show and continued to run the "Joie Chitwood Chevy Thunder Show" after their father's retirement. The Chitwood show toured the US from 1945-98, his grandson, Joie Chitwood III, is the President of International Speedway Corporation, and formerly the president of Daytona International Speedway and before that the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The show was featured during season 3 of CHiPs in an episode entitled "Thrill Show". Joie Jr. did stunts for Miami Vice on several occasions. Joie Jr. also appeared as a guest challenger on the TV game show To Tell The Truth. Joie Jr. worked in over 60 feature films and national commercials.

Chitwood's show was credited by Evel Knievel as being his inspiration to become a daredevil when his show appeared in his home town of Butte, Montana.


Chitwood was frequently hired by Hollywood film studios to either do stunt driving for films or to act as auto-stunt coordinator. On a few occasions he appeared in a minor role, notably with Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck in the 1950 film about auto racing, To Please a Lady.

In 1973, Joie Chitwood Jr. is credited as a Stunt Coordinator for the hugely successful James Bond film Live and Let Die, where he was also the stunt driver and acted in a minor part.

Safety Consultant[edit]

Joie Chitwood Jr. also acted as a car safety consultant, intentionally crashing vehicles for subsequent investigation. He had intentionally crashed more than 3000 vehicles by the time he appeared on the game show I've Got A Secret in 1965. Joie Jr. and Joie Sr. test-crashed guardrails and breakaway Interstate signs for US Steel and aluminum light poles for ALCOA. The highways are safer today because of these tests.


When Chitwood retired, his sons took over the business. Joie Chitwood died in 1988,[2] aged 75, in Tampa Bay, Florida.

He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993, he was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2010 in the Historic category.[2] Among his contributions to the sport was the supervision of the construction of Pennsylvania's Selinsgrove Speedway in 1945.


Indianapolis 500 results[edit]

* shared drive with Tony Bettenhausen

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]


Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 WDC Points
1950 Ervin Wolfe Kurtis Kraft 2000 Offenhauser L4 GBR MON 500
5 *
* Indicates shared drive with Tony Bettenhausen.


  1. ^ Eversley, Ryan; Heckman, Sean (January 18, 2018). "Joie Chitwood III". Dinner with Racers. Season 3. Episode 90. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Armstrong, Chitwood, Kulwicki, McGrath, Squier, Titus and Vogler Inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame". Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Retrieved 22 October 2010.

External links[edit]