Ed Flemke Sr.
Known as “Steady Eddie,” Ed Flemke Sr. (August 27, 1930 – March 30, 1984) of New Britain , Connecticut , was the leader of 1960s “East Coast Bandits” that raced and won everywhere. Plus, the extremely talented and dedicated professional Modified stock-car driver was an innovator who did much to advance the Modified chassis technology of his era.
Flemke began racing in 1948 after his brother George – a Midget racer of some note – used to let him make warm-up laps in his Midget and then helped him learn the ins and outs of racing and how to handle the intricacies of traffic driving that he would face as a rookie.
He also got some good advice from Midget standouts Mike Nazaruk and Bert Brooks and the first race of what would turn out to be Ed’s long and successful career took place in a Jalopy coupe at the old West Springfield ( Mass. ) Speedway , a one-fifth-mile paved oval that in its former dirt configuration had been a dog-racing layout.
After some seasoning in his No. 439 flathead-powered early-1930s five-window coupe, Ed raced a Sportsman at the old quarter-mile asphalt Plainville (Conn.) Stadium and a Modified at the old quarter-mile asphalt Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts, where he won 22 races and the 1956 and 1958 Modified titles. And the driver of the Nos. 61, 14 and 1 1937 Ford coupes was also a Riverside Midget racer on Tuesday nights in 1951.
But as the 1960s unfolded Ed and his No. 2x were racing and winning all over the East Coast. He won two consecutive New Year’s Day races on the quarter-mile track inside Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – the only “Yankee” to ever do that – and his success in other such touring situations was such that it encouraged Denny Zimmerman, “Red” Foote and Rene Charland to travel with him, and thus was created the “Eastern Bandits.”
However, when it proved no longer economically feasible to race all over, Ed – who was a “money driver” and once drove cars with $-sign and ¢-sign identification – spent several seasons at the then-quarter-mile asphalt Utica-Rome (N.Y.) Speedway. In all, the 1970 Utica-Rome Champion won 24 races including seven 100s, two 200s and the season-ending New Yorker 400 on September 6, 1970 , in the Garuti Brothers extremely fast white No. 14 coupe.
But when Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs , Connecticut , was paved in 1967 that brought him back to New England and he won Stafford ’s first asphalt race in the Bob Judkins-owned red No. 2x 1936 Chevrolet coupe. The inventor of the split-spring “Flemke front end” and winner of 23 races at Stafford includes in his victory there 1973’s Spring Sizzler and the Stafford 200 that he claimed in Judkins’ red No. 2x Pinto.
Then, as his career wound down, Ed – who also won several races in the orange No. 61 1936 Chevy coupe of fellow EMPA Hall of Famer Richie Evans – drove the maroon and white No. 10 Manchester Sand & Gravel Pinto.
During his 30 years as a race-car driver Flemke is estimated to have had over 500 wins, including the 1977 300-lapper at the five-eights-mile asphalt Thompson ( Conn. ) International Speedway. And he retired as a driver in 1978 after running his last race at Stafford Speedway.
But Flemke’s career was not just focused on winning races as he took it upon himself to help young drivers coming along and talented New England product Pete Hamilton thought enough of what his mentor did to recognize him by name during a press conference after he won the 1970 Daytona 500 in the Petty Enterprises No. 40 Plymouth Superbird.
Yet with all of the things that Ed Flemke Sr. accomplished, he always said that his proudest day at a race track was when he stood in the infield and watched his son Eddie Jr. – who was an outstanding Modified driver as well – take his first laps at Riverside Park .