A 30-year-old Hillman man died doing what he loved, but the tragic snowmobile crash that claimed his life also caused him to leave behind a burgeoning family.
“He went out doing what he loved to do, there’s no doubt about that,” a teammate said of Billy Travis, the professional snowmobile racer who died in a race Friday.
Travis died Friday, Jan. 6, the opening night of No Bull Triple Crown series at the Isabella County Fairgrounds.
He was leading the pack when his snowmobile flipped over and flung him to the ground. Before officials could motion the other racers to slow, he was struck by two sleds and died from injuries sometime after.
Travis was engaged to be married, according to his obituary in the Alpena News. His fiancee is pregnant with their first child together.
Recently, a GoFundMe page was created to aid his fiancee, Lindsey Grace, in supporting the family in the wake of the loss.
In less than a day’s time, the fund has garnered more than $17,000 from friends, family, fellow racers and others.
It was three years ago when Travis joined the professional snowmobile racing outfit Kovar Racing.
He was a “perfect fit,” Kovar Racing crew member Scott Butkovich said.
Fast forward to early 2016 when Travis and teammate Dan Maki took home third in the International 500, the “granddaddy of them all for a snowmobiler,” as Butkovich calls it.
“That was a great moment for Kovar Racing,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest races across the U.S.”
Travis was on course for helping bring the team another victory Friday night when the fatal accident occurred.
“He was leading the race, he went out in first place,” Butkovich said.
Butkovich said he’s been around snowmobiles and racing for as long as he can remember. While it’s not typically a dangerous sport, he said, everyone is aware that accidents like the one Travis was involved in can happen.
“It’s happened before, you know,” he said. “Everybody knows, especially the drivers, that it can happen and does, but you just don’t know. It’s quite devastating. It’s just a tough situation.”
Butkovich said he’s had snowmobile racers and teams from across the country give their condolences. It’s a testament to the many lives Travis touched throughout his career, he said.
Travis started with motor sports at a young age, entering his first dirt bike race at the age of 8, according to his obituary.
From there, he raced both motorcycles and snowmobiles and “loved anything with a motor,” the obituary reads.
But, above those hobbies, his real love was family and friends.
“Billy was always there for friends and family, and had a knack for helping kids out,” the obituary reads. “He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.”