It’s clear that Ed Craze Jr. has told this story many times before.
The Chesterfield County native was proud and excited and had scrapbooks filled with photos, trinkets and memories of his time as the 9-year-old official mascot for midget car racing in Richmond in the 1940s.
“It was the best feeling. I can’t really describe it. I was just so happy,” Craze, 77, recently reminisced.
His happiness began in 1947, when young Ed and his family first attended the midget car races at City Stadium. The small cars that resembled bullets with wheels were loud; you could hear them from miles away.
Despite their danger, his father was intrigued by the swift little cars.
“I’m going to build you one,” he told Ed.
Five months later, using old car parts including the steering wheel of a 1939 Chevy and pieces of a Model T Ford, Ed Craze Sr. had completed the miniature racer for his son.
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About one-third the size of the standard midget racer, it didn’t take long before the word got out about little Ed and his mini midget. Soon after, he was awarded a trophy and named the official mascot of the races – driving his car, “Little Richmond,” with a one-cylinder, two-cycle, two-horsepower engine around the City Stadium and Royal Speedway races during intermission.
His nickname? “Speed” Craze.
Ed, who lives in Chesterfield with his wife, Joan, hung out in the pit with the drivers, his idols. He remembered Cary Williams and his favorite, George Fonder. He mourned the 14 names he had etched in his scrapbook of drivers who perished in crashes – Fonder among them.
Midget car racing started in the mid 1930s on the West Coast and soon became a fast-growing sport and attraction in the 1940s and early 1950s. The Richmond Stadiums were part of the Central Eastern Racing Circuit. Ten-lap races were held every Wednesday night. Eight to 10 cars competed for a spot in the final race.
The sport’s popularity in Richmond was a blip in the historical narrative of racing, as stock car racing and NASCAR quickly took over the scene.