News emerged last week that former Super Vee champion and Indycar racer Bill Alsup (above, David Hutson photo) had died in a crane accident in the mountains near his home in Colorado. The crane tipped over as he was negotiating a steep hill and pinned Alsup underneath, killing him instantly. Alsup was born in Honolulu, raised in San Francisco and ultimately landed in Woodstock, Vermont, where he immersed himself in the booming ski industry as the U.S. importer for Poma Lifts. He’d lived in Colorado for the past 25 years.
Alsup took up racing in his mid-30s, driving first in Formula Ford, before progressing to the then still-new Super Vee professional category. The state of professional motorsport politics in America in the mid-’70s meant, however, that the category “enjoyed” two competing pro championships, one a mainly oval league organized by USAC, the other a road-racing series managed by the SCCA. In 1978, driving his Argo JM2, Alsup won both championships, four victories securing the SCCA’s VW Gold Cup crown, and two wins enough to bring him USAC’s Mini Indy title.
Those twin successes gained him notoriety, and for 1979 he moved into the newly formed Championship Auto Racing Teams series for Indycars with an ex-Penske McLaren M16-Offy in which he learned the ropes on the way to being named CART’s inaugural Rookie of the Year. For 1980, driving his own PC7-Cosworth he took 7th in the season’s points tally, his steadiness catching the attention of Roger Penske who hired him to fill in for Mario Andretti in the AB Dick-sponsored Penske PC9 for the eight races Mario would miss while away doing F1. Alsup seized the opportunity with both hands, becoming a regular top-five finisher and claiming the runner-up spot in the championship behind teammate Rick Mears.
The arrangement changed for ’82, with Alsup’s own outfit—though still with AB Dick funding—running a Penske PC9B for him, but he could manage only one top-five finish, at Atlanta, and ranked 11th in the points. For ’83, with AB Dick having left the sport, he struggled to field a unique Argo JM15 and later a March 83C, but his career had peaked, the sport was changing and he drifted away from Indycars, contesting a handful of sports car races over the next few seasons before hanging up his helmet.
A memorial service will be held this Saturday, August 20, at 2:30 p.m. at the Silverton (Colorado) school gym, with refreshments following at the Silverton San Juan Gilbert Archuletta Fire Station. To Alsup’s sons Nipper and A.J. the rest of his family and all his many friends in and out of the sport, Vintage Racecar offers its sincerest condolences.