“SMILING” JOHNNY SPIEGELHOFF
Hall of Fame Inductee - 2008
“Smiling” Johnny Spiegelhoff was well-known in the world of motorcycle racing, but actually started out racing bicycles, then was a competitive speed skater. Johnny was the winner of the very first race in Sturgis in 1938. He was instrumental in organizing that first race weekend in Sturgis in such a way that fans were interesting in coming back for subsequent years.
It was at Johnny’s insistence that organizers of the first Sturgis races sought AMA sanctioning, which brought a field of racers from a wider geographic area and spurred fan interest in the races. The Saturday race schedule turned out to be rather brief and disappointing for the fans in attendance, so Spiegelhoff stepped up and worked with organizers to add more excitement to the Sunday races. He suggested some additional events that would make the race day last and give spectators something more than what they’d had on Saturday. As a result, the crowd was pleased and their excitement insured a positive area-wide response for the 1939 races.
Johnny Spiegelhoff went on to win three more championships at Sturgis – in 1939, 1941 and 1946. In addition to his wins at Sturgis, Johnny won two major races, the 100-mile National at Langhorne PA in 1946, and the Daytona 200 in 1947. In fact, Spiegelhoff was one of only three racers ever to win the Daytona 200 on an Indian motorcycle.
Spiegelhoff officially retired from racing in 1949, then ran an Indian dealership until Indian went into bankruptcy in 1954. After that, he worked as a heavy equipment operator in construction in and around Milwaukee, and in Mexico during the winter. In 1974, he contracted hepatitis and died in Mexico at the age of 59.