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The real Ed Elisian...


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#1 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:37

In my cursory and very informal Internet research, it has become obvious that Ed Elisian is seen as one of the black hats in American motorsport history. To hear commentators tell it, Elisian was very unpopular with other drivers in general, and that unpopularity turned into outright detestation following his role in the accident that took the life of Pat O'Connor in the 1958 Indy 500. Some commentators, moreover, have even suggested that this ill will compelled drivers to run interference between Elisian, who was trapped in a burning race car in a race in 1959, and safety crews trying to reach him. Elisian died from his burns in that crash.

A topic such as this is doubtless the meat and mead of many on this site, so I'd love to hear your comments on Elisian and his bad reputation. Was it deserved? Or has Elisian been unfairly villified?

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#2 Lec CRP1

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:52

Wasn't Elisian the man who ditched his car, Purley-style, to try and help Bill Vukovich after his fatal crash in the 1955 Indy? Doesn't sound the actions of the complete b*****d he's been painted as.

#3 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:59

Elisian has been unfairly vilified, plain and simple. There's really not much more to be said. Those "stories" that are doing the round say so much more about the persons uttering them, than about Elisian! :rolleyes:

#4 Doug Nye

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:01

First time around Buford posted that disgusting story relating to Elisian's death. That was the first time I had heard it - and I for one prefer not to think about it again. I have always accepted that roundy-racers of old were a rugged lot, though in truth I have no doubt that some of the road racers over here were also hard enough to have matched them anywhere, any night. But I cannot accept that they were ****. To behave as described in the Elisian legend - such 'men' would have been **** indeed.

DCN

#5 RStock

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:40

Originally posted by Lec CRP1
Wasn't Elisian the man who ditched his car, Purley-style, to try and help Bill Vukovich after his fatal crash in the 1955 Indy? Doesn't sound the actions of the complete b*****d he's been painted as.


Yes and he received a sportsmanship award for it . His car was undamaged when he stopped to help Vuky , he didn't have to . He did it out of concern , an was the only one who stoped that day IIRC .

Here's what AJ Foyt has to say about O'Connors accident at Indy that day .

When I came by the pits, I could see Ed Elisian sitting on the pit wall. His helmet was off and his head was in his hands.
I wondered how it could have happened. But I knew the answer just as well as any of the drivers. You race all month with a guy and you build up this rivalry. It almost becomes a hate. But it isn't. Only race drivers feel it. Maybe som people feel it on the highway. There are just some people who don't like to be passed. But in racing it builds up so much stronger. It becomes an obsession. I guess that's what happened to Elisian and Dick Rathmann. They just got overcome with the obsession to beat each other.


Doesn't sound like AJ is laying blame on either side , and he was never the type to mince words .

#6 FLB

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:52

There was a very good thread on Elisian at Trackforum, including posts from someone who spent some time with him.

#7 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:13

The "disgusting story" I posted was from an eyewitness who was maybe 12 years old at the time and who was a kid in my quarter midget club (and a veteran race watcher not a first timer) who claimed that the drivers kept running at speed and would not slow down enough to allow people to run across the track up to the wall and try to rescue Elisian and who was alive and fighting the flames. I frankly found that hard to believe. I just related the story. He said that's what happened and everybody in the grandstand around him were furious that the drivers had not slowed down under yellow.

When I first related the story years ago I don't think I said I believed it completely, I just said this is what he told me and that years later, more than 20 years later my father and I went to some guy's house who had a massive photo collection and had some pictures of my dad's stock car teams from the 1950s and 1960s. Because they were so busy racing at the time they took very few pictures of their racing team so we wanted to get some.

Among his incredible collection were photos of some fatal accidents. One of them I recall was Ron Lux with his neck obviously broken, and another was the Elisian crash. I was startled to see in the aftermath photos directly behind the car on the other side of the wall was the boy I had talked to, right in the place he told me he was.

My conclusion from this is a 12-year-old boy who was quite familiar with racing and a driver himself in quarter midgets did see this accident and he did think and he did claim that other people in the crowd around him felt the drivers did not slow down and deliberately had hindered rescue crews from getting to the car in time. However that's one persons opinion and I simply related the story as I heard it. Take it with whatever grains of salt you wish but he was there because I saw a picture of him being there.

EDIT: Thinking back in 1959 I was 12 years old. This guy was 2 or 3 years older than me so I modify my story to say he was 14 or 15 at the time he witnessed the accident - for what that is worth.

#8 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:22

Wow. That's a pretty amazing story. And if true--please note I said IF--one wonders what it was besides perhaps the O'Connor accident that could have generated that sort of hatred.

#9 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:23

They also blamed him for Bob Sweikert's death.

#10 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:25

Catching the blame for the death of two popular drivers would just about do it.

#11 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:36

Originally posted by Flat Black
In my cursory and very informal Internet research, it has become obvious that Ed Elisian is seen as one of the black hats in American motorsport history. To hear commentators tell it, Elisian was very unpopular with other drivers in general, and that unpopularity turned into outright detestation following his role in the accident that took the life of Pat O'Connor in the 1958 Indy 500. Some commentators, moreover, have even suggested that this ill will compelled drivers to run interference between Elisian, who was trapped in a burning race car in a race in 1959, and safety crews trying to reach him. Elisian died from his burns in that crash.

A topic such as this is doubtless the meat and mead of many on this site, so I'd love to hear your comments on Elisian and his bad reputation. Was it deserved? Or has Elisian been unfairly villified?


I'd like to hear/read who these commentators are. Wikipedia?

Please cite your source(s).

Many of these accounts are complete and utter fallacies.

#12 ensign14

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:43

Elisian had zero to do with Sweikert's death other than being on the same track, from what has been posted on the trackforum thread.

The not-slowing-for-yellow story seems to be untrue. There's secondhand evidence on the trackforum thread refuting it. Further, the Harms boxscore here says the race was red-flagged for the crash. Would drivers concentrating on their own race even know who was involved in a crash? Especially as it was Elisian's first time in the Travelon that season. It wouldn't necessarily click that that particular car had Elisian in it. Sounds to me like deliberate denigration of Elisian's memory.

Interesting to note that Jim Rathmann seems not to have taken the restart, and was replaced by AJ Foyt. I know Rathmann didn't like the dirt, but this was a paved oval, so was there any particular reason why he did not do so? Perhaps because of the crash?

#13 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:47

I do recall he was suspended by USAC for a time for "rough driving." It was true, I recall the times. He was very much despised by many. But I was a kid, never met him, and only know for certain it was true he was not well liked by drivers or officials. Obviously not everybody hated him or he wouldn't have gotten rides.

#14 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:52

I agree I have seen a movie of the Sweikert crash and he got squirrelly and went over the wall but for some reason Elisian was blamed by some. How long does it take to burn to death? A minute or two at most? If the drivers didn't slow down and kept running hard and people couldn't cross the track because of it, if they threw a red flag eventually the damage would have already been done. Frankly I never believed it myself, just reported what I heard, that eyewitnesses said not slowing down by the drivers kept rescue crews away long enough that he died.

#15 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:55

There were also rumors that Elisian was deep in debt and needed to lead the first lap at Indy in order to help pay off that debt. Who knows if the rumors were true, but some people are bound to believe rumors, and if they believed O'Connor died so Ed could pay his debts...well...

#16 Collombin

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 23:04

Originally posted by Buford
I agree I have seen a movie of the Sweikert crash and he got squirrelly and went over the wall but for some reason Elisian was blamed by some.


In her book, Sweikert's wife seemed to imply that Elisian was at least partly to blame, for forcing Bob too high.

Just watched the footage again, and it's pure drivel. There is a car alongside Sweikert (presumably Elisian) at the point Bob loses it, but it certainly wasn't squeezing him at all.

Mind you, Rex Dean's report on the Vukovich crash says that Elisian was blamed for that one in some quarters, which is a bit like blaming Edward Jenner for smallpox.

#17 RA Historian

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 00:54

Originally posted by Flat Black
There were also rumors that Elisian was deep in debt and needed to lead the first lap at Indy in order to help pay off that debt. Who knows if the rumors were true, but some people are bound to believe rumors, and if they believed O'Connor died so Ed could pay his debts...well...

I recall hearing the same story, way back when. Elisian needed money badly, and the prize money for leading each lap was supposedly the motivation for Elisian to try to get past pole sitter Rathmann right away and to lead as many laps as he could. I remember reading it in a newspaper after the race, IIRC.

#18 TrackDog

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 06:16

Originally posted by E.B.


In her book, Sweikert's wife seemed to imply that Elisian was at least partly to blame, for forcing Bob too high.

Just watched the footage again, and it's pure drivel. There is a car alongside Sweikert (presumably Elisian) at the point Bob loses it, but it certainly wasn't squeezing him at all.

Mind you, Rex Dean's report on the Vukovich crash says that Elisian was blamed for that one in some quarters, which is a bit like blaming Edward Jenner for smallpox.


Sweikert hated Elisian for some reason, and Elisian passed him at Salem. Sweikert drove too hard trying to get back past him, and ended up crashing.

Elisian was a charger of a driver, rather sullen; he didn't really like the media, and didn't get along well with most of the other drivers. He had huge gambling debts, and the mob was supposedly after him...I've heard that the debt was several hundred thousand dollars; and some drivers and officials thought this was affecting his judgement on the track. He borrowed money from some car owners, I think George Bignotti may have been one of them, but I'm not sure; and USAC worked out a deal with his "creditors" whereby all of his winnings would go to pay off his gambling debts.

He was hard to get to know, but those who were able to get close to him generally liked him; he wasn't really as bad a guy as the press made him out to be.

In some ways, he reminds me of Ernie Irvan in his early days, undoubtedly a gifted talent, but undisciplined.

I've never seen footage or photos of his fatal crash, but I've heard that the car didn't catch on fire right away...it was upside down, and gasoline trickled into the cockpit and began to burn.


Dan

#19 fines

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 07:45

Oh great! Thanks to Wikipedia, the childhood memory of a 12-year-old, duly shocked by a terrible racing death right in front of his freckled nose and thusly misjudging the time it takes to slow down a field of racing cars to caution speed, becomes accepted wisdom!!!!???

Hail Wikipedia! Progenitor of urban myths!

Where's the vomit smiley... :rolleyes:

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#20 Buford

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 07:57

Actually I recalled he was older than me when I was 12 so he was 14 or 15 but where does it say that is where the Wikipedia account came from? A single post made on this forum years ago got to Wikipedia as fact? I very much doubt that. A story I never said I actually believed, just was related as I heard? I had no idea I had such credibility!! I can't even post on this forum I met Ray Harroun and have his autograph and Don Capps has seen it, without having some history rewriting moron challenging my story and calling me a liar. Some post I made years ago made it to Wikipedia? That is ridiculous I think.

I have heard the same story other times over the years and urban legend or not, I am not the only person who ever told that tale. I told what I heard from an eyewitness. I was just relating the first time I heard that charge, shortly after the accident from an eyewitness I discovered from a photo maybe 30 years later was in fact in the place he said he was. I never said anybody had to believe it or put it in Wikipedia and I very much doubt my obscure reference one time on this forum is the source of the Wikipedia entry.

#21 ensign14

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:21

Originally posted by TrackDog
He had huge gambling debts, and the mob was supposedly after him...I've heard that the debt was several hundred thousand dollars; and some drivers and officials thought this was affecting his judgement on the track. He borrowed money from some car owners, I think George Bignotti may have been one of them, but I'm not sure; and USAC worked out a deal with his "creditors" whereby all of his winnings would go to pay off his gambling debts.

Lap leading prizemoney wouldn't do much to dent that, surely? The odd tailored suit here, cow there...winning the race outright might have done.

Unless he'd put a humongous bet on leading lap 1, or even taking pole and was annoyed at Rathmann. Or maybe it was just one of those things cos the Speedway had made a Horlicks of the start (again).

#22 Nanni Dietrich

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 10:46

Buford, me too.

I'm sure I've already heard (or read, don't remember) several times the same story during my life. Don't think I've only read your message on TNF, years ago. This story (eye-witness story?) already exists.

But I sincerely do not understand where is the problem. It is possible, as someone said, the race was red-flagged in a few minutes (one? two laps?). This is the time during which a man could die the same in a burning overturned wreckage.

We have done the name of David Purley.
Please, remember Zandvoort 1973, no one, not Stewart, not Hulme, Fittipaldi, Regazzoni, Van Lennep, Revson, Beuttler or Hunt, no one stopped his car but Purley.

Does it mean they all were involved in Williamson's death?

This is motorsport. Only motorsport.

David Purley with Williamson, Ed Elisian with Vukovich, Vic Elford with Vetsch, Hailwood with Regazzoni, Arturo Merzario Guy Edwards Brett Lunger Harald Ertl with Lauda. These are the exception.
The rest is motorsport.

Add: the rest is internet (included Wikipedia).

#23 ensign14

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:21

The red flag itself might be significant. How often did they stop races then? Indy wasn't redflagged in '58, IIRC. That could be read two ways, the drivers were not slowing down enough, or it was obviously a bad one that needed attention. And I don't know if Elisian was lapped, the red might have come out instantly.

And why did Jim Rathmann not take the restart?

#24 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:23

Originally posted by Buford
Actually I recalled he was older than me when I was 12 so he was 14 or 15 but where does it say that is where the Wikipedia account came from? A single post made on this forum years ago got to Wikipedia as fact? I very much doubt that. A story I never said I actually believed, just was related as I heard? I had no idea I had such credibility!! I can't even post on this forum I met Ray Harroun and have his autograph and Don Capps has seen it, without having some history rewriting moron challenging my story and calling me a liar. Some post I made years ago made it to Wikipedia? That is ridiculous I think.

I have heard the same story other times over the years and urban legend or not, I am not the only person who ever told that tale. I told what I heard from an eyewitness. I was just relating the first time I heard that charge, shortly after the accident from an eyewitness I discovered from a photo maybe 30 years later was in fact in the place he said he was. I never said anybody had to believe it or put it in Wikipedia and I very much doubt my obscure reference one time on this forum is the source of the Wikipedia entry.


I think Buford is raising an excellent point here. First, Buford did meet Ray Harroun and get his autograph -- which I saw with my very own eyes. In addition, Buford's parent's independently confirmed the story (and many others) when it came up at supper one evening. Second, as a rule, Buford is very clear as to whether he is passing on something he was told, something he witnessed or what he is stating is his opinion. In this case he was very clear about the nature of the information and where it came from. Some seem to have read more into than was written, but that is, perhaps, a result of their looking but not reading.

At times, we (mea culpa) seem to get on our high horse not realizing that, in reality, we are really being horses' asses.

#25 Lemans

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:56

A single post made on this forum years ago got to Wikipedia as fact?

This Wikipedia leads to faulty info being put out there. Buford and Don have a treasure of US auto racing history. In early days, there was a win at all costs mentality. I put my faith in Buford's reasoned account.

#26 FLB

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 12:29

Originally posted by ensign14
Unless he'd put a humongous bet on leading lap 1(...)

That was the rumour according to Scalzo's Indianapolis Roadsters.

#27 Flat Black

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 15:15

Yes, FLB and Ensign. That is what I recall as well.

Re: Elisian's Crash

Owners frowned mightily upon drivers whose compassion got in the way of track position. The owner of Elisian's '55 Indy entry was supposedly furious at Elisian for stopping his car and attempting to help Vucky. I doubt they would have been any more sympathetic to drivers in '59 if they did anything (even slowing down, perhaps) to help Elisian, particularly if the fire was confined primarily to the cockpit and was not readily visibile for all to see.

So in short, I don't put much stock in the notion that the entire field of drivers was complicit in Elisian's death.

Elisian's personal character, however, is more ambiguous.

#28 RStock

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 17:59

Originally posted by Nanni Dietrich


We have done the name of David Purley.
Please, remember Zandvoort 1973, no one, not Stewart, not Hulme, Fittipaldi, Regazzoni, Van Lennep, Revson, Beuttler or Hunt, no one stopped his car but Purley.


What I have heard about that is , the other drivers saw Purley running about and assumed he was the driver of the car on fire . Perhaps there was a similar situation in Elisian's crash .

#29 David M. Kane

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 19:17

Both David Purley and Roger were driving similar Marches.

#30 Lec CRP1

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 19:34

Yes, one was dark blue and the other orange/red. But anyway...

Purley was the only driver who saw Williamson's accident, which means he could take the appropriate action. All the other drivers saw what came after, ie. Purley trying to push the car over, Purley waving his fist at the passing cars. They did not do anything because they didn't know the full story, and were too concentrated on the race to stop and inquire about it.

#31 fines

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 19:55

Don't get hot, Bufe, don't get hot! I wasn't implying you were the source of confusion here, not at all, and obviously if one person can get it wrong (meaning the 12/14/whatever-y-o), then certainly many more can, too, and you would have to agree that the probability of a couple of hundred persons sitting in that very grandstand never having seen an autorace before, or at least never having witnessed a caution period, is perhaps quite high.

Thinking about it again, the very fact that the race was stopped may have induced some inexperienced onlookers to think that "that" was the usual procedure, and since in fact it was VERY unusual it would have taken some time for the cars to slow and stop, leading to the misconception. No?

Originally posted by Buford
Some post I made years ago made it to Wikipedia? That is ridiculous I think.

I don't think that's ridiculous at all! Au contraire, I'd think that is how many of those entries are composed - stuff read on th' internet! :rolleyes:

#32 fines

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 20:01

Originally posted by ensign14
And why did Jim Rathmann not take the restart?

Very simple: Rathmann had broken some vertebrae a couple of months earlier in a practice crash on the same track. This was his first race after the injury, and it wasn't properly healed, so he stepped out when he saw that Foyt was available for the restart. :)

#33 ensign14

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 20:09

Ouch! Ta. :)

#34 Buford

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 20:22

What he said was the rescue workers could not get across the track because the other drivers would not slow down. They were right there, a few feet away but they could not get across the track while the driver screamed for help. This guy was from a racing family, was one of 0.0000000001 % of American boys who drove a racing car himself in 1959, and he was not a bewildered tyke out of his element. This was his world. He had seen many accidents before and he said he, his father, and everybody around them felt the other drivers were responsible for not slowing down and letting the rescue workers get to the scene in time.

Now I'm fully aware that in an emergency time seems to be different but how long does it take to burn to death? And how long did it take to slow down a roadster in those days? I never drove one but I drove a Sprint car 20 years later with probably more power and terrible brakes but I could have gotten slowed down from full speed in about half the straightaway on a half mile track. No way they couldn't have gotten slowed down on one straightaway if they had wanted to.

It has been too long since he told me this nearly 50 years, that I don't recall if he was contending the drivers did this deliberately because it was Elisian or they just did it because they did it, but I do believe he was portraying an honest belief and not a little child's fantasy. That a possible rescue was rendered impossible because the other drivers on the track did not slow down and let the rescue workers cross the track. They kept racing at near green flag speed despite the presence of an overturned burning car on the track. As I said take it with any amount of grains of salt you choose to. Apparently in your case Fines that is none whatsoever, but again he isn't the only person who has ever given that account as others have stated over the years they heard the same interpretation of what took place.

#35 FLB

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 20:41

Buford, I understand here that the unpleasant inferrence is that the drivers made a collective choice, but the one thing that bugs me is how could the drivers have known it was Elisian who'd crashed? How could they have absolutely, postively identified him?

Although (nearly) a decade later at the same track, the drivers DID stop racing when the Duman/Darnell/Brown incident happened, at least in the video I've seen (Car & Track, on SpeedTV).

#36 Jim Thurman

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 21:10

I'll finally wade in here, though I'm fatigued from recently battling this sort of b******t over at TrackForum, where I led off one post with "And there on the door, was a HOOK!" :rolleyes: Because that's the level of some of these stories. So, I'll try to cover as much as I can here, hopefully not overlooking the many points that have been brought up. It's going to be difficult with as much ground as has been covered here...but here goes...

I too had read some of these stories about Edward Gulbeng Eliseian. I wonder if some originated with one writer (who has been mentioned in this thread). I have been critical of this writer, not for his style (which is outstanding), but for his factuality and research. I understand this same writer did another piece on Elisian where he claimed Ed was either having an affair with, or making a play for, Ester Vukovich. That upset both the Elisian and Vukovich families, who might have replied in kind (though I can't find any evidence to back up the claim on TrackForum that legal action was threatened, though it might have been looked into).

Ed Elisian thought the world of Bill Vukovich. I've heard and read that Vukovich took Elisian under his wing and helped him out. With Elisian coming up through Track Roadsters in Central and Northern California (he was from Oakland), a young Elisian is bound to have looked up to Vukovich, who was a standout and star in the area in the Midget ranks and who also began his racing driving the pre-WWII version of Track Roadsters.

When I was doing research years ago, I ran across items in newspapers from 1958-59 involving Elisian. Every item that went across the wires seemed to begin with something like "Ed Elisian, the driver who triggered the massive pile-up on the first lap of this year's Indianapolis 500 that killed driver Pat O'Connor..." Elisian was arrested for bad checks and, another time for punching a police officer. The level of writing reminds me of current day "journalism" with a pack mentality. It came across to me that Elisian was literally hounded by the press.

The '58 '500'. The start was a complete disaster, perhaps the worst in '500' history other than 1957. Dick Rathmann roared out of pit lane with Jimmy Reece and Elisian trailing, all before the pace car exited the pits. The field formed up behind the pace car with the front row almost a mile behind. The third time around, Sam Hanks pulled the pace car in, with the front row still well behind. Starter Bill Vandewater waved off the start and Rathmann, Reece and Elisian roared around the field (Rathmann on the inside, Reece and Elisian on the outside) to take their rightful order. All of this came less than a lap before the green fell. This was chaotic enough. There have been rumors about Elisian's gambling debts, which seem tied to the same writer, but there's little dispute that Elisian did have gambling problems. Let us also remember, there is plenty of blame to go around here as Dick Rathmann didn't lift as early as he should have going into turn 3 either. It's interesting that at least in quotes in the newspapers of the time, the Rathmann brothers were the ones blasting Elisian the most, yet I saw an interview with Jim Rathmann many years later where he was asked about the '58 race and he said "Hell, we were all stupid." I wonder about Dick Rathmann and Elisian goading each other, or even making a wager, much like what happened at the 1953 Daytona beach race between Fonty Flock and Bob Pronger (Buford can tell some good Pronger stories).

In wake of the '500' pile-up, Elisian was suspended by USAC. Keep in mind, this came after the wave of newspaper articles. The suspension was lifted less than a month later. Unfortunately, driver Jim Davis died in a USAC Sprint Car crash at New Bremen in close proximity to Elisian. Though Elisian was absolved of blame, the papers had a field day...again.

Sweikert. Elisian was blamed in some quarters for Sweikert's death and it could not have helped his image any any. But, there is film evidence that proves otherwise. There was an outstanding article in a late 80's/early 90's magazine interviewing Dorie Sweikert. She told the tale of how Bob and Ed were rivals when both were teenage hot rodders on the roads through the East Bay mud flats and how Bob called Ed "Drool". Dorie Sweikert was interviewed last year by a reporter from the Hayward (CA) newspaper (Bob was a Hayward resident) and, in contrast with past interviews, she did not blame Elisian (though this was cited at TrackForum as a source for his involvement in the accident).

Writer Terry Reed has a letter Ed sent to his family not long before his accident at Milwaukee. While I haven't seen it yet, it apparently shows a very different man than his portrayals.

Former driver and racing historian Don Radbruch raced alongside Elisian during his Track Roadster days. Don wrote that unlike some drivers, he never had any concerns about racing wheel to wheel with Elisian, that he knew Elisian wouldn't do anything foolish, adding that away from the track was a different matter - that he would not have wanted to hang around with him. Don had worked on an article on Elisian, but never got around to finishing it. He offered me his data and encouraged me to write a piece, but I was busy at the time and Don has since passed away :cry:

It truly should be done. Sadly, these tales are coming up more frequently now, after Elisian's immediate family members and most of his contemporaries have passed on.

It comes across that Elisian's off track behavior led to him being blamed for on track incidents. And considering some of the problems some of his fellow drivers had, it comes off even more unfair.

#37 Buford

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 21:23

Bob Pronger stories are hilarious. Unfortunately I only remember a couple and my dad has passed away with all the stories but Pronger ran the chop shops for stolen cars on the south side of Chicago for Tuffanelli (spelling?) (aka THE MOB). He was a pretty good friend of my dad as well as a competitor in the stock-car races around Chicago. One day he disappeared and hasn't shown up since.

#38 Jim Thurman

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 21:25

Originally posted by fines
Oh great! Thanks to Wikipedia, the childhood memory of a 12-year-old, duly shocked by a terrible racing death right in front of his freckled nose and thusly misjudging the time it takes to slow down a field of racing cars to caution speed, becomes accepted wisdom!!!!???

Hail Wikipedia! Progenitor of urban myths!

Where's the vomit smiley... :rolleyes:

Well, change it Michael. In another post, I referred to a howlingly bad Wikipedia entry...ding, ding, you've found it. This came up in the TrackForum discussion. The only reason I hadn't gone in and changed it was I wanted to point it out on TNF.

Buford, as Don mentions, you've always been good about explaining what you heard versus what you witnessed first hand. I don't blame you, but like fines mentions, it's entirely possible that someone Googled, found your post and put it in the Wikipedia entry on Elisian (which BTW, is also mentioned in the 1958 Indianapolis 500 entry :rolleyes: )

One is supposed to be able to track entries to Wikipedia. To quote David Letterman: "We've got a name, let's find the son of a b****" :lol:

#39 Jim Thurman

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 23:22

I had to make some edits to my lengthy post (#36), so if you've read it, please re-read the portion on Dorie Sweikert. I wanted to make sure I corrected an error I originally had in that section.

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#40 David M. Kane

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 00:14

Thanks Jim I remember reading in the day a lot of bad press in the day. I would be stunned if any of the newspaper guy really dug that deep to find out the truth. That's just my opinion, my gut feel nothing more, nothing less. Even today most sports writers don't know very much about sports let alone racing. Just because you played Little League baseball doesn't mean you really know anything about Major League Baseball. I content it can be the same in racing, just because you go to the track with your BMW or Porsche Club for a track it also doesn't mean you understand what it takes to do 224mph at Indy with your aero all trimmed out. I personally think I would need a diaper change.

#41 Flat Black

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 01:09

I'll say one thing for Dorie Sweikert--she was a HONEY in her day! Mercy.

:smoking:

#42 David M. Kane

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 02:10

LecCPR1:

Not to beat up your point, but it is possible that is hard to see the color of a car when it's upside down and on fire. I think it's more of a problem of them being afraid to answer to their owners...why'd you stop, you drive, let the workers do their job. After this incident, however, no owner would ever dare take that attitude again.

Flat Black do you have a photo of Dorie?

#43 Flat Black

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 02:29

Just in the '56 Indy program, Dave. If I wasn't such a damned techno-stooge I'd scan it and post it.

:

#44 TrackDog

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 05:02

Originally posted by David M. Kane
LecCPR1:



Flat Black do you have a photo of Dorie?


www.pitstopbooks.com/publications-sweikert.html


Dan

#45 Flat Black

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 14:48

Like I said, a lovely-looking woman.

#46 David M. Kane

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 14:52

A good looking couple!

#47 MPea3

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 21:12

An interesting webpage with a photograph of Elisian. I've also cross posted it to the origins of sprint car thread.

http://www.autoracin...emHighBanks.asp

#48 Flat Black

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 21:38

I'd read that article before and it's a good one. Almost makes me wish I lived in the Midwest.

PS--The piece mentions Pat O'Connor, which reminds me that if Hollywood ever made a movie about his life, Tom Hanks would be the perfect actor to portray him. A salt-of-the-earth actor in the role of a salt-of-the-earth driver.

#49 ensign14

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 15:15

I just noticed something.

Dick Rathmann's car at that fateful 500 was the McNamara Special.

Two weeks later Elisian is at Langhorne in a McNamara Special.

The same McNamara (trucking company) sponsor? If so, were the same people involved?

#50 fines

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 18:13

Yes, the same team, owner Lee Elkins. Elisian drove for Elkins in the McNamara Sprint Car team in '57, and they fell out when team mate Andy Linden had a chance to scoop the Midwestern Circuit Championship - all he had to do was finish 4th in the last race of the season. At the end of the long 100-lap race, he was fifth, and guess who was 4th - yes, his own team mate! Typically, Elkins blew a fuse and sold his Sprint Cars, ready to get out of the sport. He reconsidered and entered Indy in '58, and even bought a new Watson roadster that was brought along as a "spare" by Hank Blum, selected his old buddy Dick Rathmann as the driver and wound up on pole! Elisian, meanwhile, had found a berth in Watson's year-old 'works' car, and qualified second... The rest is well known!

This is a rarely mentioned subtext of the whole 1958 accident episode, less popular than the (alleged) gambling stories. Elkins was a very rich car owner, and well known for getting in and out of a deal at a moment's notice. Elisian may well have hoped to get back on the McNamara payroll by his manouevre, and he actually succeeded! He was driving a former Elkins car for Homer Allen on the Sprint circuit, and it appears to have been sponsored by McNamara again in June, plus he did get a few rides in the McNamara Champ Car. After that, Elkins disappeared for another 15 years...