Joie Chitwood Cause of Death: How the Racing Legend and Stuntman Died

Joie Chitwood was a famous American racecar driver and businessman, who is best known for his thrilling stunts in the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show. He was also a successful racer, who competed in seven Indianapolis 500 races and won seven AAA and USAC Championship Car races. He was nicknamed “Joie” after a newspaper reporter misspelled his name, and he claimed to be of Cherokee descent, earning him the moniker of “Raging Cherokee”. But how did this daredevil and pioneer of motorsports die? Here is a brief overview of his life and death.

Early Life and Racing Career

Joie Chitwood was born on April 14, 1912, in Denison, Texas. He was orphaned at the age of 14 and dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He moved to Topeka, Kansas, during the Great Depression and worked as a shoe shiner and a candy butcher at a burlesque show. He also learned welding and built his first racecar from an Essex. He drove the car after the original driver failed to show up and finished second.

He soon became a professional racer and joined the AAA Championship Car circuit in 1940. He raced in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1941, finishing fifth. He also won his first race that year at the Milwaukee Mile. After World War II, he resumed his racing career and won six more races between 1946 and 1950. He also competed in one Formula One race, the 1950 Indianapolis 500, where he finished fifth and scored one championship point.

Joie Chitwood Thrill Show

In 1943, Chitwood started his own stunt show, inspired by the stunt driver Lucky Teter, who died in a crash that year. Chitwood bought Teter’s equipment and hired some of his crew members. He named his show the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show and toured across the country, performing various stunts such as driving on two wheels, jumping over ramps, crashing through walls of fire, and driving through flaming hoops. He also featured other drivers, motorcycles, and even jet cars in his show.

Chitwood’s show was very popular and attracted millions of spectators over the years. It also influenced many Hollywood movies and TV shows, such as James Bond, The Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, and CHiPs. Chitwood himself appeared as a stunt driver or a consultant in several films, such as Live and Let Die, A Small Town in Texas, Phobia, To Please a Lady, The Big Wheel, and The Human Jungle.

Family Life

Chitwood married Dorothy Faye “Dottie” Smith in 1938. They had two sons: Timmy and Joie Jr., who were both born in 1944. Joie Jr. followed his father’s footsteps and became a racer and a stuntman. He also took over the management of the thrill show in 1965. Joie Jr. had a son named Joie III, who was born in 1971. Joie III also became a racer and a businessman. He served as the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Daytona International Speedway.

Retirement and Death

Chitwood retired from racing in 1950, but continued to perform stunts until 1965. He then focused on running his business and promoting his show. He also invested in real estate and owned several properties in Florida.

Chitwood died on January 3, 1988, at the age of 75, in Tampa Bay, Florida. According to Daniels Funeral Homes, he passed away after a short illness. He was buried at Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa.


Chitwood is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of motorsports entertainment and one of the greatest stunt drivers of all time. He was inducted into several halls of fame, such as the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, and the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. His thrill show continued to operate until 1998, when it was sold to the United States Auto Club (USAC). His grandson Joie III still works in the racing industry as the vice president of corporate development for the Arnold Palmer Group.

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