Editor´s Diary - In memory of Ed O'Connell

In most editions, so also this time,  Eurodragster.com editor Andy "Tog" Rogers shares his thoughts and fill readers in on how Eurodragster.com´s daily work is operated by its dedicated staff, all year round, more or less 7 days a week.. This is a special tribute written in memory of a beloved friend and collegue, Ed O´Connell.
On 1st July the Eurodragster.com team suffered a massive blow with the death of US Correspondent, and one of the closest friends I have had in my fifty years, Ed O'Connell.

Ed had been unwell on and off since Easter; he hated being unwell and he particularly disliked being in hospital. In what I didn't know was to be one of our last phone calls he expressed himself frustrated at the slow pace at which the medicos were sorting things out, or "faffing" in the phrase we had taught him. At the end of June Ed had an operation (in fact to cure the same irregular heartbeat which I sometimes suffer), and was quickly allowed home. A few days later, though, Ed was taken ill at his New Hampshire home and passed away the next morning.
The huge response to Ed's passing didn't surprise me in the least. He was an extremely popular guy in the racing community all around Europe, everyone loved him to bits and were genuinely delighted to see him approaching their pits. He was always made very welcome and did even better for hospitality than I always have. An example of just how likeable people found Ed occurred during his first visit to a race event in Sweden, the 2008 Veidec Festival. Ed arrived on the Wednesday afternoon, just in time to enjoy some of the Press Day and to be introduced to the rest of the Eurodragster.com team with whom he formed an instant bond. That evening we went to the cruise at Vadstena where I introduced Ed to a group which included Lars Pettersson, Bjorn Sundkvist and Christer Abrahamson. This was the first time that any of these guys had met Ed and he them. I turned my back for a second and Ed was gone. Shortly afterwards I found him again, walking around the castle with his new Swedish buddies talking about American cars - they had taken to each other that quickly. This is a story which repeated itself at tracks around Europe; at Santa Pod Raceway Ed was taken particularly to heart by Angie and the shutdown area safety crews with whom he spent a lot of time as he loved top end photography.

It sounds obvious to say that Ed loved his drag racing but let me give you an idea of just how much. When Ed came over to the UK for races we would always go up to Santa Pod the day before the event commenced. This allowed me time to set up the office; whilst I was doing that Ed would go for a potter around to see who was already in the pits. Inevitably, though, we would both end up sitting in the office just looking out of the window, saying nothing but both thinking the same thing. It was Ed who gave voice to it one day when he said "I know there's nothing happening out there, but it's enough just to be at the track".

Races at which Ed was present were always happy affairs. It was impossible to be unhappy within a hundred yards or more of him. An occasion I remember was when Melanie Troxel was racing over here. Ed used to have a comedy routine portraying Simon and himself as rivals for Mel's affections. One day at Santa Pod Simon went down to see Mel without Ed, who went off on an affected jealous monologue about "The evil Simon" trying to steal a march on him. By the time Ed had finished I had tears of laughter running down my cheeks. At another race Ed referred to a fellow photographer who had behaved rudely towards him as "(name) F***ing (surname)!" - the guy doesn't know it, but to us he has been "name F surname" ever since. Spencer Tramm rightly pointed out in his tribute to Ed that however hard a day we had had, Ed could always be relied upon to keep us cheerful. None of us ever heard him moan and as I said in one of my other tributes I honestly can't remember Ed being even mildly irritated. He used to push himself very hard both when working with the Eurodragster.com team at European events or representing us elsewhere. Regular Eurodragster.com readers will know that Ed, in his role as US Correspondent for Eurodragster.com, often attended events in the USA at which Europeans were racing and would send us daily pit notes, reports and photographs. That this is a job which usually takes at least three of us speaks volumes, and Ed used to work hard and long. I remember getting a Valdosta race report from Ed which was timestamped 03:00… and I mean his time, not UK time.

photo: Ed and Simon during Ed's first visit to Sweden

Darren West designed Ed's memorial decal and Paul Foote printed it

The ultimate Ed story, one which I already told on the Eurodragster.com tribute but which bears repetition, came on that first visit to Sweden in 2008 when he managed to drive off without paying for a tankful of petrol. Ed returned the rental car only to be told that the police were looking for him. Ed told the car rental guy "You fix it, I have a train to catch" and off he went to Linkoping station. We never let Ed forget about it and "Still wanted by the Swedish police" was applied in parentheses or dropped into conversation at the least excuse.

Within a couple of days of Ed's death we had started work on a memorial decal because we knew that a lot of racers would want to carry them. I thought that it would be fitting to echo the Eurodragster.com logo and sketched out a rough idea for Ed's name in the Eurodragster.com font and colours, with a black ribbon in place of the dragster in our logo. Darren West of Eurodragster.com sponsor Power Race Graphics took my rough sketch and not-very-good explanation and came up with a perfect rendering which I then passed to fellow Eurodragster.com sponsor Paul Foote whose company Paul Foote Ink turned round the order within days. I must say a huge Thank You to Darren and to Paul for their prompt help. The decals were ready in time for Dragstalgia and a number of racers carried them that weekend so thanks to them, and to the safety and support crews at Santa Pod Raceway and Shakespeare County Raceway who have placed Ed's decals on all of their vehicles.
We will have Ed's decal with us at this weekend's NitrOlympX so if you would like to carry them then please don't hesitate to ask for a pair.

More than once this year, before he fell ill at Easter and again when he seemed to be recovering, Ed and I had spoken about trips to Europe and the NitrOlympX was in the frame. Ed loved Hockenheim and he had very fond memories of the enthusiastic reception and ready assistance which he had received from Christine, Peter and Yvonne on his previous visit. So his absence this weekend will be particularly poignant. However, before Dragstalgia Kirstie told me that moping our way through that weekend would not be an appropriate way to honour Ed's memory since he was always so cheerful; Kirstie was of course right and the best way we can honour Ed is to do as good a job of the coverage as we can and to smile our way through it. Kirstie, Simon, Julian and I are going to do Ed proud.

Ed taking a rare break, in the stands at Hockenheim. Picture by Dave Buckland

Ed working on his daily report for Eurodragster.com in the Top Eliminator Club at Gainesville


Eurodragster.com was established in 1998 and is Europe's leading drag racing web site. Eurodragster.com presents daily news updates from the world of European drag racing as well as live event coverage, features and interviews. Further racer blogs, championship points standings, free classified advertisement service and more. Eurodragster.com also works closely with organising bodies and officials to bring essential information to the notice of racers as soon as possible - within minutes if necessary. During the race season Eurodragster.com attracts more than ten thousand visitors per day and approaching fifteen million hits per month.

You can contact the News Desk at  news@eurodragster.com 

The Editor - Andy Tog Rogers founder of  Eurodragster.com
photo: Åsa Kinnemar/Speedgroup

This article is part of the Speedgroup Club Europe Newsletter NitrOlympX Preview August 2014

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