Ed Schaefer born
On June 23, 1915
One of the best midget drivers in the history of this sport, Carl Edward «Dutch» Schaefer, was born in Floral Park, New York. The love for speed first appeared in Ed Schaefer in childhood, when he used to drive a bicycle through Manhattan. At the age of 14 Schaefer started to participate in motorcycle races but only after two years did he obtain factory support from Excelsior Motor Company, and after two more years he became a works driver for the Indian Motor Cycle Company. But in spite of some success, he switched from two wheels to four in 1936 by starting a career behind the steering wheel of a midget on the tracks of Cross Bay and Deer Park in New York. Small brisk cars were chosen by Schaefer not by chance, since they allowed him to race practically the whole week, unlike the big cars which started only once at the weekend.
In 1940 the first significant success arrived, when Schaefer became the champion of Cedarhurst track, New York. The performances in the first postwar years turned Ed Schaefer into a legend when in 1946 he won 25 feature races throughout the country and became the champion of the Yellow Jacket Speedway, Philadelphia and repeating this achievement in 1948. In 1947 when he was practically unbeatable, Schaefer received the prestigious «King Doodlebug» cup – an award established by Walter Bull, a founder of Illustrated Speedway News, which is awarded to the best midget driver of the year. As he himself noticed in an interview twenty years later, this prize became the highest achievement in his career.
In 1952 Schaefer, replacing Steve McGrath, was elected the president of ARDC (American Racing Drivers Club), a club where he was one of the founders in 1939 and where he held the position of vice-president from 1950. In fact, the further actions of newly elected president saved one of the oldest racing associations of the USA from vanishing – in 1948 the stock cars races started to gain popularity and the drivers in bulk started to switch to that category. Schaefer was able to rally around himself a small group of car owners and drivers devoted to ARDC and gradually turned the club into the most influential organizer of midget races on the US Atlantic coast. Thanks to his success in race organization Schaefer was reelected president 15 times in a row and held a leading position in ARDC until the end of 1968 (although he wanted to resign back in 1964) when he was removed with the election of car owner Ken Brenn as president. By the end of his 16-year rule the number of races held by ARDC reached 51 with a total prize fund of 93 thousand dollars. For his merit Ed Schaefer gained a lifetime membership in ARDC.
When organizing the races, Ed Schaefer participated there himself and won ARDC championship in 1956, 1957, 1960 and 1965, establishing a still unbeaten record of the greatest number of victories in the history of the races of this organization. He also started in the races organized by other organizations — NEMA (Northeastern Midget Association), AAA, USAC and even NASCAR and also won them not least due to the fact that the finest equipment was at the champions’ disposal. Nevertheless Schaefer was not so successful in other racing categories and very rarely started in the races behind the wheel of non-midget. He was looking forward to start in Indianapolis in 1958 but he was not admitted to take the rookie test.
During the 1960s Schaefer won more than 80 races, the one which was especially successful despite the loss of the championship to Len Duncan, was 1967 where in 38 races he finished in the first three 19 times, won 9 times, and in one case all the elite of national midget drivers of USAC were lapped by him. Moreover, because of the results of performances in 1967 on the track of Hershey Stadium, Schaefer was awarded with the Golden Helmet Award for the greatest amount of points earned on that track. In September of the same year «Dutch» Schaefer set a unique achievement by winning 5 races in three days.
Several times in his career Schaefer had soul-chilling accidents but came out practically unscathed, until in 1969 during the race on Islip track, Long Island, New York, as a result of a collision with Larry Rice he got severe injuries and was delivered to hospital in a critical condition (Rice died) with a fracture of the pelvis and shoulder. After spending 8 weeks in hospital, Schaefer started to recover the shape precipitously after being discharged and in May 1970 got back in the cockpit of a midget. Upon approaching his sixties, Schaefer nevertheless remained in demand and in 1973 led another midget organization – SMRC (Super Midget Racing Club) and won their championship in the same year. Even in his last race in 1977 on the dirt track of Bloomsburg fairgrounds, Pennsylvania at the age of 62 he was the first to finish!
On the track Schaefer was a harsh professional driver who was always hard to fight with but always interesting to watch. Some rivals called Schaefer “demon”, and his nickname “Dutch” came from a shortening of “Flying Dutchman”. Outside the track, Ed Schaefer was a modest man with good manners and an excellent sense of humor. He was a highly energetic businessman who did not despair in hard situations and kept on bending his line which undoubtedly was what helped him to lead ARDC for so long. In everyday life Schaefer drove a Lincoln, his favorite food was prawns, favorite actors — John Wayne and Bette Davis, favorite musicians — Harry James, Perry Comp and Peggy Lee. Ed Schaefer died in 1978.