It was in 1967 that Flemke began driving the Bob Judkins 2X
coupe. He drove the car until 1970, when he switched over to the #14 and #28 of
Ray and Richie Garuti. 1970 was a most successful year for Flemke and the
Garutis. The aluminum blocked #14 which Ed drove was said by many to be the
fastest modified on the East Coast.
The season was marred by one tragedy, though. in July Flemke was on his way to another victory at Stafford, when the front axle broke on the Garuti Bros. #14. The aluminum 427 bounced on the track and caused the throttle to stick wide open. The car hit the Stafford wall at over 100 mph. The car was a total loss and Flemke suffered cracked ribs and a sprained wrist.
It was almost two months before a new #14 was constructed. The Garuti Bros. had a business to take care of and it took time to build a car from scrap. But, when the #14 came back, it was even faster than before. Many of the people in the sport of racing complained about the aluminum blocks in the Garuti cars. They said they were not safe because they were too light" and they were too expensive."
This was a major dispute at the end of the 1970 season. It ended with NASCAR putting a total ban on aluminum block engines. This left the Garutis, Jerry Cook, Ed Yerrington, and Don Flynn (who had aluminum blocks) out in the cold for the 1971 season. They had to scrap their aluminum blocks and go back to the iron. A barrel of money was lost. Everyone switched back to iron except the Garuti Bros. Today, three years later, the #14 and #28 still sit in their New Britain, Conn., garage. The Garuti boys want to know why they were cut off cold.
Flemke says of the matter, "The Garutis were intelligent people. They could get a stock aluminum engine from Chevrolet for $300.00 less than the other boys were buying the iron motors from B&M. The Garutis would run their motor pure stock and beat the others. . . . NASCAR's cutting off of the aluminum motors because of high cost' was pure prejudice. They should have slowly phased them out."
So, Ed found himself without a ride in the 1971 season. He spent most of the season driving his good friend Richie Evans' #61. Richie had the spare car stationed in Rome, and was not using it, so he was more than happy to let Flemke use it. Ed drove the car in a few races at Stafford, and weekly at Albany-Saratoga Speedway.
In 1972 Ed teamed up again with his old owner Bob Judkins. He is still driving the 2X, though the present one is Pinto-bodied, as opposed to the old 2X coupe.
ED FLEMKE is a different person at home than at the racetrack. When racing season starts, an overall change in Flemke's behavior is evident. He is geared for racing from the opening day of the season until the very last day of the season.
When the season opens, Flemke is tense. He becomes preoccupied with only one thought: racing. Before a race or at the race track it is impossible to talk to Ed and have him receptive to what you are saying. He has only racing his mind.
Flemke takes his racing serious, It's his life, his income. He doesn't believe in the common racing superstitions such as the wearing of green and peanut shells being an antecedent of bad luck.
Every race that Ed wins is big to him. He draws no line between different victories. Each one may have a different personal meaning to him, even though one victory may have been a 25-lapper paying $200 and another a 200-lapper paying $2,000.
'A win doesn't feel like a win when you sit on the pole and lead from beginning to end. The trouble is that most victories come easy. I get more thrilled when I know I worked my hardest to finish second or third," says Flemke.
"People come up to me and say, 'Wow, you drove a fantastic race,' when I led unchallenged for most of the race. This is a lie. How could anyone drive a 'fantastic' race when he had no competition?" he added.
"I have more respect for the guy who gives his all to only go three-quarters of the way," says Flemke. "Some people step all over others to get to the top. But, the other people will always remember that."
Ed believes that the race driver must be humane to his fellow drivers. He believes in one hand feeding the other. Though drivers are foes on the tracks they should help each other off the track.
Flemke is one who advocates working hand in hand with the promoters, owners, and media members. He knows that the sport of racing cannot survive if a link in the chain is broken.
Ed proves this by trying to put on a good show for the fans. Many times he is really outrunning his closest competitor, and he will slow down his pace to put on a good show. Sometimes the other drivers do not know whether Flemke is just being a "show man" or really having troubles. But, these thoughts quickly vanish when Flemke comes down the straightaway side-by-side with someone and pulls them at the finish line.
He also entertains the fans at intermission. Flemke usually can be seen clowning with Rene Charland, running Seymour the Stafford clown down with his modified, or chasing Bugsy Stevens around with a bucket of water.
Besides being a part of racing, Ed Flemke enjoys watching races. He takes in a few dirt shows every year, and always follows the Grand Nationals and Indy cars.
Every February, Flemke treks to Florida to watch the Daytona Speedweek program. He sometimes participates in local Late Model races while in Florida, principally those at New Smyrna Speedway.
Besides his driving, Ed Flemke is known for his chassis and front end innovations. The Flemke front end revolutionized the stock car racing world in the 1950's. Flemke's split spring-stacking bolt setup is now on it's way out, as newer forms of suspension take hold in the stock car racing world.
Like most inventions, the Flemke front end was formulated by mistake. The wrong springs were ordered for Flemke's stock car, and pressed for time, Flemke had a brainstorm.
He cut the main leaf of the wrong springs and bolted it to the cross member. He then put a stacking bolt through for quick adjustment. Thus, a mistake and two hours work led to an innovation which had a tremendous impact on the sport of stock car racing.
FLEMKE LIVES in Southington, Conn. He 'has five children, ranging in age from four to eighteen. When not racing, Ed is usually at home relaxing. He chats with the neighbors, swims in his pool or plays with his collie "Prince" in the backyard.
During the winter, Flemke has guests at his house almost every night of the week. A lot of talking goes on. He makes up for all the times he was too busy to talk in the summer. He also goes snowmobiling.
In the small town of Southington, the name Flemke is almost a household word. The townspeople keep track of Ed in the local newspaper, which usually has a story a week on him.
Ed was recently asked to be a part of Southington's "Apple Harvest Festival Parade," but he had to decline the offer be cause he and the 2X were journeying to Trenton that Sunday.
There is even talk about the town hall to set aside Flemke's birthday as a town wide holiday. Flemke has done much to put the town of Southington on the map. Perhaps more than a lot of other local heroes.
The Flemkes live in a tidy little Cape Cod. Their door is always open for those who have a problem or just wish to visit to talk about racing.
Many times people will call, write or just drop in asking advice or suggestions of Ed. He is more than happy to help someone out Even with matters other than racing.
Ed spends most of his time reading, thinking or talking about cars. He has little time to devote to anything else. He follows all types of auto racing, and also follows football, wrestling and the roller derby.
As far as sports go, Ed says, "To each, his own. I wouldn't cross the street to see a baseball game, but that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with baseball."
This year Ed Flemke will begin his second 25 years of stock car racing. Following in his footsteps will be his son, 'Little Ed." "Little Ed" will be driving a modified at Riverside Park this year.
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