It was a quiet ending to a life filled with long-ago noise and activity, a life of fueling the passions of others through dogged determination.
Ed Adair died Aug. 6, slipping into eternity at a retirement home in Nashville, Ind. During his lifetime he was an indefatigable advocate of midget racing, finding himself in the middle of the post-war boom in the sport. He was instrumental in the creation and operation of several racing organizations, including the Indianapolis Midget Ass’n in the early 1950s.
In his later years Adair played a prominent role with CORA and WWAR, finally concluding his career with the All-American Midget Series in the early 1990s. You’d be hard-pressed to find an open wheel racer in the Midwest from the 1950s to the 1990s who didn’t race with Adair at one time or another.
He was an interesting man, different than most people you run across in this business. He was well educated and soft-spoken, and sometimes it was hard to figure out how he became a race promoter, a rough-around-the-edges business to be sure.
Adair played an enormous role in the presence of midget racing in the Midwest. Along with wife Jane, Adair beat it up and down the highways serving as shepherd over an ever-changing flock of racers, mostly blue-collar guys who simply wanted a place to race.
For many of us, Adair was a key figure in feeding our addiction to racing because he brought midgets to a wide audience. For example, as a kid growing up not far from Anderson Speedway, Adair’s groups were my first real exposure to midget racing. USAC didn’t come to our local track, so a half-dozen times a year Adair would bring his guys here.
Many of those shows, particularly his Friday-night specials, were a tough nut financially. But Adair just smiled and shrugged as he glanced at the sparse crowd heading out through the gates at the end of the night. He’d chomp that unlit cigar, his eyes twinkling as he looked over the top of his glasses, and say something like, “Yeah, but it was a helluva race, wasn’t it?”
Adair would have been a classic study of what makes a race promoter tick. His job required a vast amount of work, offered very little financial reward, and carried an enormous exposure to financial loss. But like a habitual gambler, Adair would play that one winner into several months of further activity.
In the end, he did it because he loved midget racing. If you spent five minutes with the man, you understood.
I can still see him, along with Janie and their beloved golden retriever Rusty, piling into their car at the end of the night, waving goodbye and pointing their headlights toward the highway. They were truly happy people, doing what they loved, and doing it together.
When Janie passed on in 1991, it really took the wind from Adair’s sails. She was a delightful, wonderful person, and the years they had together were so special that life must have seemed awfully empty when she went away.
Adair soon retired from promoting, moved to Brown County to be close to his family, and spent the remainder of his life reminiscing about the golden years of midget racing.
Every now and then a letter from Adair would pop into my mailbox, the handwriting growing more unsteady with the passing of time. He would detail some of his memories, each time reminding me that he was involved in the creation of several successful midget organizations.
Maybe he was worried that someday people would forget about his contribution to the sport, or maybe he just enjoyed writing it out, playing back the years in his mind, remembering the faces and places and the excitement that made it all worthwhile.
He needn’t have worried about being forgotten. Many of us will always remember Adair and Janie, and will be forever grateful for the role they played in helping fuel our passion for the sport.
Rest in peace, old friend. You’ve earned it.