During the 1962 and 1963 seasons, Flemke rode to victory at two New Year's shows in a row at Winston-Salem, N.C. It was also in 1963 that Flemke went through six cars. It seemed that every time he painted his car it would get wrecked. So, he decided to leave it in primer only, and name it "The Gray Ghost."
Flemke had what was probably his worst accident in 1963. He was running at Richmond when he got airborne in front of the grandstands. His car cleared the twenty foot high posts in front of the stands, leaving gray primer from the roof on the top of the poles. He landed in the bleachers. His first thought was that someone might be under the car. He scrambled out of the overturned modified, receiving a minor cut in doing so, and luckily found that no one had been in the way.
The only other time Flemke was hurt after that wreck was when he cracked his leg while running with a conduit bar roll cage at Malta. Years ago, no one checked the roll cages on the cars and some cars were equipped with only copper or plastic roll bars. When Flemke cracked his leg at Malta, NASCAR came up with a minimum weight law (then 2400 lbs.), and made specifications for roll cage construction. "I always respected NASCAR for this . . . they always found a way for safety . . . never knock it," added Flemke.
It was around 1964 that "Steady Eddie" (a name which was given to him during the fifties by "Shany' Lorenzet, Riverside Photographer) rose to fame in the South with his continuous wins. He was labeled the "Eastern Bandit" by the Southerners. A small group of drivers began to travel with Flemke. The group consisted of Red Foote, Dennis Zimmerman (1971 Indianapolis Rookie of the Year), and Rene Charland, three time NASCAR Sportsman National Champion. The "Eastern Bandits," headed by Flemke, continued on their winning streak throughout the Eastern U. S.
It was about this time that Dennis Zimmerman and Pete Hamilton were tagged as students of Flemke. At times the three al most lived together. When Hamilton or Zimmerman wanted a helping hand they turned to Flemke. He was always there,
ready and willing.
Pete Hamilton stayed in the North, while Dennis Zimmerman and the rest of the "Bandits" ran down South. In 1965, Flemke recalls sitting atop his modified in Richmond, and talking to fellow bandit Rene Charland. "I can't understand that Grant," said Charland. "Grant, who?" questioned Flemke. "General Grant. It took him and all his men to defeat these Southerners back then. Now all it takes is me and you," he replied.
In 1966 there was a slow transition in modified racing. It began growing less profitable for the bandits to run South. There were more and more NASCAR modified tracks in the North.
There was one bad weekend in there that Flemke recalls. The Eastern Bandits were on one of their last tours in 1966, when everything seemed to go wrong. The hauler blew, the modified blew, and everything seemed to go wrong from Friday night on. Flemke went without sleep for three days as he repaired his hauler and car for Sun day's races at Marlboro and Old Bridge. He managed to win at Marlboro on Sunday afternoon, then completed repairs on the hauler and called Old Bridge to let them know he was coming. They purposely rearranged the show, so that the consi was after the class B feature. This way Flemke would have a chance to qualify. Flemke went on to win the consi, then later the feature. Flemke explains his seemingly impossible feats by saying, "If you're geared for it, you can do anything." He has proved this many times over with his consistent wins, after traveling day and night with little sleep. Racing was his life, his love. Nothing could stand in the way to separate the two.
It was also in 1966 that Flemke won his most personally valuable trophy. It wasn't for winning a race. But, he would give all his many, many trophies up for this one.
Rene Charland was running in back of Flemke at Albany-Saratoga on Friday night. Flemke tangled with Elton Hill, whom he was passing. Charland hit the front part of Flemke's spinning car and got airborne. When he came down, Charland spun around and hit the wall in front of the grandstands backwards, already in flames. Flemke spun into the infield. When he saw Rene's car afire he drove to the edge of the track, and ran to his rescue. Flemke reached through the flames and pulled the burning driver from the car. To this day he doesn't know how he removed Charland, who is three times bigger than he.
When asked about the rescue, Flemke modestly says, "It wasn't so courageous; if a person, friend or not, is standing in front of you dying, are you going to say to your self 'Should I save him or shouldn't I?'" Flemke received minor burns, while Rene received serious burns from the accident.
When 1967 rolled around, Ed saw action at Stafford Speedway. It was not until that year that Stafford was paved. Flemke points out that, "I never could feel comfortable on dirt. . . . I never could get the job done. But, I still enjoy a good dirt show."