Ed Flemke was one of the great men of American racing.
As a driver for more than 30 years in highly competitive “modified” stock car racing, Ed won hundreds of races up and down the East Coast. He achieved that despite often being limited to a very modest budget, and indeed he took pride in doing a lot with a little. As long-time competitor Leo Cleary put it, “Ed Flemke won more races with less money than anyone ever has. He was a sly fox, the slyest fox I ever saw”. Another deeply experienced racer, Pete Hamilton, said that Ed “was as smart as any driver anywhere” and “probably the greatest modified driver ever to come out of New England”. Talledega 500 winner Ron Bouchard said of Ed, “Everybody knows – all you have to do is look at the history – he was one heck of a racecar driver”. To veteran flagman Tony Leckey, Ed was “probably one of the greatest ever, ever, to get into a race car of any kind”. Motor sport journalist Randy Pemberton said that, in his more than 40 years of following racing, Ed Flemke was “the greatest short-track racer I ever saw”.
Looking back on his own 50 years in racing, legendary car builder and owner Bob Judkins was asked, “Who was the best driver you ever saw?” Bob quickly replied, “That’s easy – Eddie Flemke! I never saw anyone drive as well as he did. Eddie had a way of seeing things that you couldn’t see and he drove inside and around people and made it look so easy. He was the best!”
Ed’s countless driving achievements were however only a fraction of his unique contribution to motor sport.
Ed had a masterly technical understanding of racing cars, and especially of chassis. He invented what became known as the “Flemke front end” suspension, which in an era of continuous innovation nonetheless remained the industry standard for more than a decade. According to NEAR (New England Auto Racers) Hall of Famer Bob Potter, “Eddie Flemke was probably the smartest car-builder and set-up guy there ever was”. Ed’s knowledge of how to make a racing car handle was so valued that numerous of his competitors would seek him out for advice and even to drive their cars for them and help sort them out.
One of the extraordinary things about Ed was that he freely helped many other drivers to become more competitive against him.
Ed Flemke was renowned as a generous mentor of younger drivers. Numerous highly successful drivers, including Denny Zimmerman (1971 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year), Pete Hamilton (Daytona 500 and Talladega 500 winner), Richie Evans (all-time NASCAR Modified Championship leader), Tony Siscone (one of Area Auto Racing’s “Top 25 Modified Asphalt Drivers of the 20th Century”), Brian Ross (NEAR Hall of Fame inductee), Ron Bouchard (another of the “Top 25 Modified Asphalt Drivers of the 20th Century”) and many others, readily acknowledged how Ed had made substantial contributions to their careers.
Denny Zimmerman wrote that the early 1960s “was a great time for me, just a kid back then, learning all I could about driving race cars and being mentored by the great Eddie Flemke”. Richie Evans’s close friend Wilbur Jones said, “Richie looked up to a lot of guys, and Eddie Flemke was number one”. Three-time National Champion Bugs Stevens wrote that Ed “taught lessons to a lot of race drivers – me included”. Driver and race promoter Dick Williams remembers that Ed was “always going around helping somebody to get better – that’s what I loved about Eddie Flemke”. Tony Siscone has written, “I always referred to Eddie as ‘the Coach’…he was always offering me advice on being a smarter, more patient driver. RIP, Coach”.
In the context of his own considerable racing achievements, Pete Hamilton reflected, “Eddie Flemke was my teacher and my hero”. From Ron Bouchard again: “Even if Eddie thought you could beat him, he’d still come over to offer you help…He was a master of teaching…He got real enjoyment out of helping people”.
Indeed, one of the nicknames given to Ed was “The Professor”. Amongst his other nicknames were “Floorboard Flemke”, “Steady Eddie”, “The Eastern (or ‘Northern’, or ‘Yankee’) Bandit”, “The Little Leadfoot”, and “The Boss”.
“The Boss” nickname alluded to the respect and esteem in which he was held by racing officials, race promoters and his fellow drivers. When a dispute needed resolution, when the drivers needed a representative, when promoters needed advice, it was Ed to whom they looked. He was soft-spoken yet strong, clear in his own opinions yet effective in leading diverse individuals to see their mutual interests and work together.
In 1980, Ed began to drive less frequently, and instead with his son Ed Jr he started “Race Works”, building Modified racing car chassis for customers. Having operated that business for about four years, in March 1984 quite unexpectedly Ed died of natural causes at the age of 53.
Speaking of Ed after his untimely death, the great Richie Evans said, “There will never be another one like him”.
In everything he did, Ed Flemke acted with professionalism, wisdom, courage and class.
Motor sport author “Bones” Bourcier recalled discussing Ed with renowned car owner Junie Donlavey: “I still remember Junie speaking so fondly of his old friend, mentioning that all the Southern racers loved and respected Eddie, and then saying softly, ‘We never got over him‘. Shivers”.
More than 20 years after Ed Flemke’s death, racing expert Bruce Cohen summarized what Ed had meant to racing, and to those around him: “He transcended his sport and the arena in which he competed. Lots of guys win races, but there was only one Eddie Flemke”.
The purpose of this website is to create as complete as practicable an historical resource and record of Ed Flemke. This website has no commercial aspects or connections whatsoever.
If viewers are interested in a warm and illuminating remembrance of Ed, and narrative of the important threads of his life, they are referred to Steady Eddie – Memories of Ed Flemke, Modified Racing’s Fastest Professor. This fine book was composed and compiled by Mark “Bones” Bourcier, and is published by Coastal International.
If viewers are interested in seeing or participating in an ongoing discussion about Ed, replete with contributions by many who worked with or knew Ed, they are referred to Facebook: “Steady Eddie Flemke Tribute Page”. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1462672684010298/)
The administrator of this website has done his best to credit the photographers or providers of its images whenever their identity was known. If an image has not been credited, or has been credited incorrectly, please inform us and the oversight will be fixed as soon as possible.
We would repeat that this website has no commercial aspects whatsoever. Rather, it has been created and is maintained purely for the information and education of anyone who would be interested in the life of Ed Flemke, a great man who left a legacy from which we all could learn.