Eldon Rasmussen was the second Canadian (after Billy Foster) to race in the Indianapolis 500. Eldon and Billy were supermodified drivers who went on to the big time after competing in the old CAMRA series (Canadian-American Modified Racing Association) that promoted races in British Columbia, Alberta and throughout the western United States. Eldon was a successful driver and continues to be a race engineer, designer, builder and fabricator. He started building at the age of 9 when he put together a soap box derby car. He then fashioned a go-kart out of part of an old Model T frame and a lawn-mower engine. He started racing seriously in 1952 on the dirt tracks of Southern Alberta. Racing on pavement in Edmonton and Calgary, he went on to make more than 600 starts with the touring CAMRA series. He won local championships on many occasions and finished second once in the CAMRA series, a circuit that boasted the likes of Foster, Art Pollard, Jim Maloy, Tom and Jerry Sneva, and Cliff Hucul of Prince George, B.C., who followed Billy and Eldon to the big track at Indianapolis. Eldon served on the CAMRA board of directors and was president of the Edmonton Auto Racing Association for many years. He moved to Indianapolis in 1967 but never gave up his Canadian citizenship or Edmonton as his racing address. He ran more than 50 USAC sprint car races before concentrating on the Indy cars. He qualified for three Indianapolis 500s in 1975, ’77 and ’79 (he renewed acquaintances with Sneva in 1975 when they came together in Turn 2 at the Brickyard, leaving Sneva’s car a twisted, smoking wreck). He qualified for 10 other 500-mile races – at Pocono, Pa., and Ontario, Calif. – and 36 other USAC short-track races for Indy cars. He retired from driving in 1979 when he was injured after cutting a tire and crashing during the Pocono 500. But Eldon is better remembered as an engineer, designer, builder and fabricator. (He says one of the reasons that he didn’t start driving the Indy cars sooner was because his other talents were much in demand. He had to wait four years after moving to the U.S. before he started to drive Indy cars because he was too busy building, tuning and repairing crashed cars for other drivers and teams.) He updated cars for various teams and designed and built his own Indy cars. A visionary, Eldon designed and built some of the first wings for the Indy 500 cars. He designed and built the wing for Gary Beck’s top-fuel dragster in 1972 that contributed to Beck’s first Top Fuel U.S. Nationals victory, and designed and built the first tall wing in NHRA racing for Joe Amato. He also designed and built the top North American Ice Racing car for Hall of Fame member Tom Jones of Thunder Bay in 1975-76, not to mention the racing motorcycle and sidecar be built for Greg Cox and Bill Davidson of Ottawa in 1975. From 1975-’80, he designed and built 172 Ras-Car rent-a-racer cars for several Mario Andretti Grand Prix International tracks and 380 Ras-Car Can-Am-style go-karts. Eldon continues to be involved with, as he puts it, “anything on wheels” and to this day he is busy building exhaust header systems for Indy cars and various types of pit equipment. And are you ready for this? Much of Sylvester Stallone’s racing film Driven was filmed at the Molson Indy here in Toronto and the person who did the powerplant conversions for the three cars the actors drove in the movie was – you guessed it – Eldon Rasmussen.
Image via Indianapolis Motor Speedway