by Ramona K. Cecil
The 29th of this month, in my state of
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the 100th running of the Indianapolis
500 Mile Race. The Indiana ’s
important milestone will doubtless spark many conversations about the early
years of the track and the pioneers in the sport of automobile racing that have
left their mark on the place. Among those pioneers, the name Eddie Rickenbacker
stands out; not because he ever won an Indianapolis 500—he didn’t—but because
of his amazing life that included a significant contribution to automobile
racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speedway
|Eddie Rickenbacker, race car driver and |
WWI flying ace
In 1906 at the age of 16, Eddie found his passion when he went to work for Lee Frayer, a race car driver and head of Frayer-Miller Automobile Company, who let Eddie ride with him as a mechanic in major races. In 1912, Eddie joined car designer Fred Duesenberg and began racing cars on his own. Earning the nickname “Fast Eddie,” he participated in the 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1916
500 races. Though he never won
any of those races, in 1914 he set a world speed record of 134 mph at Daytona.
In 1916, while preparing for an automobile race in Indianapolis , Rickenbacker took his first ride
in an airplane and was hooked. California
|Eddie Rickenbacker at Indianapolis 500|
|Eddie Rickenbacker and 94th "Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron|
After the war, in 1920, Rickenbacker started the Rickenbacker Motor Company. Though the company eventually went bankrupt, Rickenbacker helped develop the four-wheel brake system. Interesting that he kept the same "Hat-in-the-Ring logo used by his old squadron.
Two years later Eddie, who’d vowed to eschew marriage, married Adelaide Frost Durant, ex-wife of a former rival race car driver. The couple adopted two sons.
|Eddie Rickenbacker and family|
In 1927 Rickenbacker bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and operated it until 1941, closing it at the entrance of WWII before finally selling it in 1945. During the 1920s and 1930s Rickenbacker worked for General Motors and several air line companies, finally taking the helm of Eastern Airlines in 1935. Three years later, he bought the company.
Among Eddie Rickenbacker’s less known accomplishments was the comic strip Ace Drummond, which he wrote from 1935 to 1940.
It was in 1942 that Rickenbacker experienced his most famous brush with death. While on a tour of the air bases in the Pacific Theater during WWII, Rickenbacker’s plane was forced to ditch in the
After cheating death so many times throughout his amazing life, Eddie Rickenbacker died of pneumonia following a stroke in 1973 at the age of 83.
So should the name Eddie Rickenbacker come up during the celebration of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, I will give a mental salute and waggle of wings in honor of the amazing life of “Fast Eddie” Rickenbacker, the American Ace of Aces.
Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of
Check out her website at www.ramonakcecil.com