Eddie Sachs

Edward Julius Sachs, Jr, (May 28, 1927 – May 30, 1964) was a United States Auto Club driver who was known as the “Clown Prince of Auto Racing.” He coined the phrase “If you can’t win, be spectacular.”

Sachs was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His career included eight USAC Championship Trail wins, 25 top-five finishes in 65 career AAA and USAC starts, including the 1958 USAC Midwest Sprint Car Championship. He was an eight time starter of the Indianapolis 500, 1957–64, winning the pole position in 1960 and 1961, with his best finish being second in 1961. Leading the race with only three laps to go, he saw his right rear tire begin to delaminate and pitted, handing victory to A. J. Foyt. Sachs never regretted his decision not to gamble on the tire, saying, “I’d sooner finish second than be dead.” Wikipedia

Eddie Sachs picture (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty, File). Image is in the public domain via SanDiegoTribune.com

In this May 14, 1964, file photo, race driver Eddie Sachs, holds his helmet from his ear with one hand while gesturing with the other as he briefs mechanics of his trouble plagued American Red Ball Special after taking practice laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Eddie Sachs Video Gallery

Eddie Sachs: The Clown Prince of Racing: The Life And Times Of The World’s Greatest Race Driver by Dennis Miller

EDDIE SACHS–THE CLOWN PRINCE OF RACING is a thoroughly researched biography of the “self-proclaimed” World’s Greatest Race Car Driver. In the books introduction, the author states that just like there will never be another Bob Hope or John Wayne or Billy Graham, there will never be another Eddie Sachs. No race driver, past or present, can match the flamboyancy, zeal and zaniness of the Clown Prince of Racing. Sachs was also a great orator who could hold audiences spellbound. He would have his audiences pleading for more racing stories. Eddie captured the prestigious pole position for the Indianapolis 500 in 1960 and 1961. He was leading the 1961 500 Mile Race until he pitted to change a badly worn tire with just three laps to go. He wound up second to A.J. Foyt by 8 seconds. The following year he charged from 27th to finish 3rd. The story of Eddie Sachs can serve as an inspiration to all youth. When Eddie began his racing career, he was one of the worst drivers to ever compete. However, by sure determination and persistence, he would go on to become a member of the Indy 500 Hall of Fame! Many times Eddie would state, “If you can’t win, be spectacular!” He lived that creed to the very end. On May 30, 1964 both Eddie and rookie driver Dave MacDonald died in a fiery crash at the start of the 500 Mile Race. It was by far the most spectacular accident in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

EDDIE SACHS–THE CLOWN PRINCE OF RACING: Consider the life and death of a grease monkey and a gear head, a man who had one big dream. He was a gentle funny man by the name of Eddie Sachs.

In 1946, nineteen year old college freshman Eddie Sachs lied his way into the garage area of a local race track. He fell in love with the sport and spent the next year following the circuit as an a mechanic’s assistant for $15 a week. And just like thousands of other twenty year olds, he pestered the owners to give him a job behind the wheel. According to Eddie, the drivers warned him, “Eddie, when you climb into that race car and when you punch that gas pedal down, things are going to happen you never dreamed of before. Eddie, its going to scare you so bad your foot is going to come off the gas so fast you might break your foot And Eddie, when you get back into the pits and the guy who owns the car looks at you and asks, “What’s wrong?” You just say, “Mister, this car isn’t getting enough gas.” And that was what Eddie Sachs did. As he jokingly put it, “No guy, and I mean no guy, ever went further on less ability than I did.”

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