One of drag racing’s more colorful (and nefarious) figures has passed away at the age of 73, according to the Dayton Daily News of Dayton, Ohio.
Stepp’s cars were known as strong runners, were always immaculately prepared, and usually featured the best of what was available in terms of parts and equipment.
There is some debate as to where his money came from, but most agree that a lot of it was from business that could be best described as “shady”. There are a couple members of our message board that had close encounters with Stepp over the years and report that he certainly had a reputation around Dayton as being a guy that should not have been fooled with.
Stepp and his cars toured regularly and had success in both match race form and in normal national event form. At Indy in 1971, his car, being driven by Stuart McDade, went to the final round, losing to Ronnie Sox by a couple thousandths of a second.
Stepp employed Ronnie Sox in 1977 and the pair had success on the IHRA circuit. Further success was had in 1978 and 1979 with Bobby Yowell behind the wheel. The pair won an IHRA event at Rockingham, North Carolina that season.
Of all the cars that Stepp had, our personal favorite was his Hemi-powered Colt (shown), which was a former Sox & Martin car. These machines were some of the wildest doorslammers ever allowed on the track. They were banned from Pro Stock after a couple of drivers lost their lives in accidents blamed on the ultra-short wheelbase of the cars.
They lived on in Competition Eliminator however. It’s very rare to see one in any form today and it seems the few that were built didn’t survive the dragstrip afterlife.
Another colorful character from drag racing’s past has left us. Got any good Billy Stepp stories? We’d love to hear them!