Q: Poor Ed Elisian. I don’t think there is a single driver that raced at Indy that has been subjected to so many ugly rumors and just plain pure BS (maybe Kelly Petillo, but he earned most of his). He was before my time too, but so much garbage has been written about him. It’s pure character assassination. I’m not surprised someone asked about him in the Mailbag, because there’s a bizarre, almost morbid fascination with him based on all these ridiculous tales about him. Most of them seem to have come from one writer and has been passed along, spreading more wildly on the internet.
To answer Kevin, I have spoken with drivers who raced with Elisian and I heard no complaints. One driver told me he had absolutely no concerns racing wheel-to-wheel with Ed, adding that was something he couldn’t say about another driver of the era. Elisian was hardly the only driver that had a gambling problem (Ruttman got suspended for same). There were drunkards, wife-beaters and borderline psychos out there at the same time as Elisian, yet he gets portrayed as the worst of the lot. All because, to some folks, mainly Hoosiers: “He killed Pat O’Connor.”
The truth is there were many people at fault for the ’58 pile-up. It was hardly all Elisian, yet he’s the one blamed. That led to him being blamed in hindsight for Sweikert’s death (as you wrote, he had absolutely nothing to do with that, but somehow it still comes up). Again, that seems to have come mainly from one writer’s fanciful mind. Elisian had his supporters — Tom Binford and A.J. Watson for two. If he was a lost cause and a total waste, I don’t see those two backing him. I’m sorry he slammed the door in your father’s face, but the kind of gambling debts he’d run up apparently made him rather surly and were the cause of all of his problems, like the bad checks. After receiving help, he seemed on the right path, but sadly he didn’t get his redemption and set all things straight before he died at Milwaukee. Besides, shouldn’t you have a bit of empathy for a fellow racking up gambling losses?
Jim Thurman, Mojave Desert, CA
RM: First off, I always pay the bookies so no sympathy in that department. But Elisian made things tougher on himself than necessary, and was always in the eye of the storm. Vuky liked him and so did Watson, so obviously he had some redeeming qualities, but there are very few people left that can give us a real picture of his personality. He certainly had balls and skill, just not a lot of luck. The saddest part of his story is that it took nine minutes to extinguish the fire that killed him at Milwaukee in 1959.
Q: What’s your educated guess on Ferrari joining IndyCar in the near future?
Giancarlo, Jensen Beach, FL
RM: It was reported recently the Prancing Horse will not be coming to Indy.
Q: I would like to know what A.J. Foyt thought of Jim Clark, both of whom I think are two of the greatest drivers of all time.
RM: Tex said many times he admired Clark’s ability and attitude, and that it was an honor to race against him.
Q: In response to the question from Mike Edwards in last week’s Mailbag about Indiana natives who played basketball and ended up in IndyCar racing, isn’t Tim Cindric the obvious answer? I thought I remembered from his Dinner with Racers episode that he lettered in basketball at Rose-Hulman (confirmed it on Wikipedia).
Sean Walsh, Arlington, VA
RM: I think Mike was wondering about big names in Indiana basketball that then went on to auto racing. I watched TC play in high school and he was good, but it’s doubtful he considers himself the caliber Edwards had in mind.
Q: Mike Edwards asked about basketball players who made it to Indy. I was surprised you forgot about Chris Kniefel, who at 6’6″ was known to work out with the Chicago Bulls. I do not know about his previous basketball credentials, but “working out with the Bulls” suggests there was something there. He started in ’83 and ’84. As you know, he later became CART race director in 2001-2004.
Shaun Fagan, Berwyn, IL
RM: The actual question was wondering if any outstanding players from Indiana ever made it into auto racing as drivers, mechanics or officials. Kneifel wasn’t from Indiana and had some skill between the baselines, but I think he had a personal connection with the Bulls.
Q: As a non-U.S. resident who doesn’t plan on moving out there (let alone traveling, because of COVID-19), is there a way for me to support my favorite sport? Buying merch? Subscribing to NBC Gold (I don’t know if that’s even possible from where I live)? Please tell me there’s at least one! I got into sim racing a few months before the pandemic started. One year after, I’m still really liking it. I’ll admit this is not my main hobby, though. I’m more of a casual player so I don’t see the need to subscribe to iRacing. However, I’d really love to drive a virtual IndyCar some day. Do you know if there are any plans for an IndyCar video game?
What was the reason for the Bus Stop chicane at Watkins Glen? Also, I recall it wasn’t a very easy spot to overtake at. These always seemed weird to me, since they’re not particularly slow corners (you’d only go down to third gear or so), therefore not making for a very hard braking zone. Couldn’t have they been designed differently, to facilitate overtaking? Or maybe removed?
You’ve often said Canadian fans are loyal, and even though I’m not a Canuck myself, with drivers like PT, Hinch and Wicky, I think Canada definitely deserves at least one spot on the schedule. However, I also think that the Toronto street track is not enough. Can’t we, on a future schedule, have a second venue maybe the week after? What about Montreal or Mont-Tremblant?
RM: All the teams have merchandise available on their websites as does IndyCar, so that is one way to support IndyCar from France (A.J. Foyt should have something new for Bourdais in 2021) but you cannot get NBC Gold in Canada, let alone across The Pond. A 12-month digital subscription to RACER magazine is a no-brainer at only 10 bucks though. No video games right now to my knowledge. As for the bus stop at The Glen (it really was a bus stop when the old track was a public highway), it was installed in 1991 after J.D. McDuffie was killed in a NASCAR race. There was talk Montreal might be interested by 2021 or 2022 in an IndyCar race and Calgary seemed to have some momentum a couple years ago, but that has all died down. I wish we had three races in Canada, but all it takes is money and a promoter.