Race car driver, Athlete
1926 – 1959
Who was Ed Elisian?
In the 1955 Indianapolis 500, he stopped his car in a futile attempt to help Bill Vukovich when Vukovich's car crashed and burned during the race. He is one of only two drivers in Indy 500 history to stop a non-damaged car to help another driver, the other being Gary Bettenhausen. He received a sportsmanship award for his efforts, as well as the wrath of the car owner.
In June 1956, Elisian was engaging in a wheel-to-wheel duel with Bob Sweikert, who had won the race in which Vukovich was killed, in a Sprint car race at Salem Speedway when Sweikert made contact with the rail, overleapt it and rolled over outside of the track, suffering fatal skull injuries. Elisian was exonerated as no collision had taken place.
In the 1958 Indianapolis 500, Dick Rathmann and Elisian started the race on the front row, with Jimmy Reece on the outside of the front row. Elisian spun in Turn 3 of the first lap, and collected Rathmann, sending them both into the wall, and starting a 15-car pileup. According to A. J. Foyt, Pat O'Connor's car hit Reece's car, sailed fifty feet in the air, landed upside down, and burst into flames. Although medical officials said that O'Connor was probably killed instantly from a fractured skull, he was incinerated in the accident, in full view of fans and drivers. Widely blamed for the accident, Elisian was suspended by USAC, and was shunned by the racing community. Rumors spread that Elisian tried to lead the first lap in order to pay gambling debts owed to a syndicate.
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