Cycle News

Cycle News 2022 Issue 31 August 2

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 122 of 135

B obby Hill, the two-time AMA National Champion of the early 1950s and Daytona 200 winner in 1954, passed away July 12. He had just reached 100 years old four days earlier. It's absolutely stunning that Hill became a centenarian. After all, Hill raced in the 1940s and '50s in an era when the sport was hazardous compared to today. He once told me that many races he ran didn't even have haybales covering the outside railings at big flat tracks. And then also, consider that Hill served as a Marine in World War II and saw action in areas with some of the most intense battles, such as the Philippines. He was a mechanic who worked on military planes, and the airports where he was stationed were often major tar- gets for Japanese bombing. And to top it all off, Hill's day job for years was driving a gas tanker! I don't know what kind of lucky charm Hill had with him, but he certainly lived a long and rich life. Bobby was a racer everybody liked. He was soft-spoken and had a subtle sense of humor. He also had great stories of his rac- ing days and loved to share them. His likeability was evident in 1951 when Hill won the pres- tigious and highly coveted AMA's Most Popular Rider Award. Hill was born in 1922 in the West Virginia northern panhandle town of Triadelphia. The National Road ran through Triadelphia and was a busy thoroughfare in the 1930 and '40s, so a young Hill was exposed early to various motorized transportation modes, including motorcycles. When he was still a teenager, Hill's older brother started working at a Harley-Davidson dealership, and when he was just 14, Hill began riding motorcycles for the first time. Hill was always proud of his West Virginia roots, even though he moved to the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Grove City in his early 20s so he could be closer to the bulk of Midwestern race tracks. I last visited Hill and his wife Nancy at their immaculate home in a quiet and well-kept Grove City neighborhood in 2017. One of Hill's neighbors, Clay Powell, noted at the funeral home mem- ory wall: "Many people knew Mr. Hill as a motorcycle champion, but to us, he was 'Bobby,' the guy who was a wonderful person, neighbor and one who was me- ticulous about his house which helped make the whole neighbor- hood look great." Hill's wife Nancy passed away last year. They were very close. Often you hear of a spouse dying not long after the other; this was certainly the case with Bobby and Nancy. Hill was basking in the glow of renewed attention late in life, CN III ARCHIVES P122 BY LARRY LAWRENCE Bobby Hill was part of both the Indian and BSA Wrecking Crews. Bobby is pictured here at the BSA celebration at Daytona in 2004. PHOTO: LARRY LAWRENCE evident in 1951 when GOODBYE, BOBBY HILL

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