Arute Jr. talk area legend Flemke Sr.
3 of the Original Eastern
Bandits who barnstormed the east coast winning races from New York
to to Virginia. Dennis Zimmerman on the left. Eddie Flemke on the
right and Rene Charland next to Ed.
Photo Courtesy of Lew Boyd,
|By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press
Photos Courtesy of
Tom Ormsby,s SpeedwayLineReport.com
Dave Dykes' RacingThroughTime.com
When one reads the history of racing, especially here in the central
Connecticut area and in the northeast in particular, it’s hard not to
mention Eddie Flemke, Sr. as one of the top drivers and innovators of his
Flemke was and still is a driver that many in the sport have looked up to
or used his advice one way or another. Just like the philosophers of years
gone by, who are often quoted today.
Over the next couple of weeks, I have reached out to several graduates of
the Eddie Flemke, Sr. School of Racing and Life Studies and will bring
their stories of what Flemke taught them.
I, too, have found out you can learn about racing, life and yourself just
riding six or seven hours to and from a race.
When Clyde McLeod was a young man learning the ropes of racing of what
would later become his career, the former Southington resident couldn’t
have paid the “Boss” a bigger compliment. This folks was long before
anyone would refer to Bruce Springsteen as “The Boss.”
“The ‘Boss’ was one of the best teachers I ever knew. I learned a lot
about racing and life on those long road trips spent with him. No matter
what I would ask him about, he would have an answer for it, and as I went
through life and into racing, his answers were always right,” said McLeod,
now working for Stewart-Haas Racing out of North Carolina.
“The racing lessons were just as important as the life lessons, and he was
good at both. That is what made him so good driving race cars.”
Being a car builder, Flemke knew what it took to make the car go better
and handle better. Some drivers today can tell you what a car is doing but
have no idea of what to do to correct it.
“He built his own car so he knew what the car could do, the rest was all
him.” McLeod said referring to the driving end of the spectrum. “He taught
many racers how to race.”
But more importantly, “He taught them how to be a class act.”
Jackie Arute, Jr. was a young announcer working at his father’s Stafford
Motor Speedway and he said Flemke helped make him a better announcer both
on the public address system and later in his career with ABC Sports, ESPN
and now Sirius Radio.
“Eddie would critique my announcing and he taught me how to ask the right
questions to get more out of the driver, not just a question that would be
a yes and no interview,” Arute Jr. said recently.
|Not only was Flemke a fellow New Britain resident, but
he was personal friends with the Arute family, who also drove to many
victories in their cars.
“I learned a lot from Eddie. One thing he was never afraid to do was
to offer an opinion, whether or not you wanted to hear it. It was
never an opinion that would only help himself but other racers,” Arute
He said Flemke was also instrumental in the forming of the SK division
at the Stafford Speedway fully knowing it could affect his future
driving at the half mile oval.
“Was Eddie a pain in the [butt]? Absolutely he was,” Arute Jr. said.
Eddie in the Arute/Garuti owned car. Eddie won the
first race held at the Arute owned Stafford Speedway in 1971.
(Click on Photo for Full Size)
But as Arute Jr. said, he always seemed to know what he was talking about.
“We would talk about things and Eddie would look at it and say, ‘Well, it
makes sense but does it make sense in this way,’” Arute Jr. said.
Both McLeod and Arute Jr. commented on the way racing was back then. You
put on a show for the fans, not just go off into the lead and run away
from the field.
“I remember one day during a heat race when Dave Monaco was in the race
with both Flemke and Bugsy Stevens. Well, Dave was running good and he
passed both Flemke and Stevens and proceeds to run away with the win.
After the heat race ended, both Eddie and Bugsy go over to Dave, take him
into an area and say to him, ‘this isn’t the way we race here, people pay
to see racing.’ Well, Dave took the advice as did others when either
Flemke or Stevens spoke,” Arute Jr. said.
Flemke also knew they were in the entertainment business. McLeod mentioned
the same thing.
“He understood way back then that it was a show and you didn’t need to win
by a straightaway but only a couple of inches, and putting on a show for
the paying fans was what it was all about,” McLeod said.
Arute Jr. also said while Flemke was great offering advice, he also knew
how to take out someone without actually making it look like he did.
“There was nobody better at spinning a guy or moving a guy up the track,”
Arute Jr. said. “You wouldn’t see him dump somebody into the wall. It was
a classic move where he would just get into them enough and then dive
below them for the spot.”
For McLeod, he misses Flemke as much as he misses his own father.
“I spent maybe more time with him than my own father and I learned most of
life lessons from him,” he said. “I still miss being able to talk with him
and I truly miss that there will never be another person like him.”
Arute Jr. also said the affect Flemke had on others was something to see
and the people that Flemke knew was incredible.
“I remember being at the shop and the phone rings and it was Mario
Andretti calling to find out something and just chat,” Arute Jr. said.