Born June 14, 1912, Lee Elkins bought McNamara Motor Freight, a truck line running out of Kalamazoo from Ed McNamara soon after the end of WWII. At one point, Elkins had seven hundred and fifty semi-trucks along with seven cargo planes.
Elkins began his race car owning career in the early 1950’s with midgets, sprint cars, and then Champ cars. His cars carried MacNamara Trucking as the sponsor, and always #73. Potsy Goacher was his first midget driver, Mike Nazaruk his first sprint car driver and Carl Scarborough his first champ car driver.
1956 found Elkins finishing seventh in car owner points with the USAC Midwest Sprints, sixth in the USAC National Midgets, and sixth in the USAC Midwest Midgets standing. Eddie Sachs, behind the wheel of Elkins’ midget, won a USAC feature at South Bend Motor Speedway on June 13, 1956. The Elkins’ sprint car team won USAC feature at Montgomery, Alabama with Andy Linden on-board. Sachs won another midget show at Raceway Park in Chicago on July 25th, and then Linden won a midget race at Motor City Speedway in Detroit on September 15th.
In 1957 Elkins put Linden in his midget and they ran the Tangerine Tournament in Florida. The team came out of 11 race series as the champion with four victories, and two seconds. Linden too the sprint car and won races that year at Dayton, OH and Winchester, IN. Later that season Ed Elisian captured a sprint car race at Terre Haute, IN. Linden won USAC midget features at Sportsdrome Speedway, IN and at Motor City, MI. Later in the season Linden took the sprint car to victory lane at Terre Haute. The Elkins owned McNamara race cars took 10 features between the midgets and sprints in 1957. Charlie Zekendy crew chiefed the cars.
He kept his midget and sprint car teams going, and in 1974 Bill Puterbaugh in the #73 finished sixth in final USAC sprint car points. Elkins dropped out of racing entirely after the 1977 season.
Lee Elkins ran his Indy car team from 1951 to 1959. Then, possibly for financial reason, he took a sabbatical from Indy until he returned in 1975 running his McNamara sponsored cars through 1977.
In 1951, Lee’s #73 Kurtis Offy upright, driven by Carl Scarborough, qualified at 135.614 mph, started in 15th position, but the axle broke and they finished 18th. The next year Bob Sweikert in the dark red and gold #73 started in 32nd position, and ended up 26th after differential problems.
The following year he entered two cars. The Kurtis Offy upright, driven by Scarborough, started 19th and finished 12th. The other car #83, with Mike Nazaruk behind the wheel started 23rd, but dropped out and finished 21st. The following year, Nazaruk driving the #73 Kurtis Roadster started in 14th and completed the 200 laps in 5th position.
In 1955 Eddie Johnson drove the #83, and finished 13th. Lee’s other entry driven by Len Duncan hit the wall in practice and didn’t try to qualify.
Dick Rathman ran Elkins’ #73 and qualified fourth and finished fifth. It was a Kurtis Kraft powered by an Offy.
Lee had a good year in 1957 when Andy Linden drove the #73 and finished 5th. While Ed Elisian in the #83 started in seventh, but mechanical problems set and he finished 29th.
Elkins’ again entered two cars in 1958. Shorty Templeman in the #83 finished and qualified 23rd, but when his brakes went out he had to quit, ending up in 19th place. The second car, a brand new Watson Roadster, was driven by Dick Rathmann, who set a new track record of 145.974 mph to set on the pole. Unfortunately Rathmann and Elisian tangled going into turn three on the first lap, setting off a chain reaction accident, which ultimately led to the death of Pat O’Connor.
Dick Rathmann drove Lee’s car again in 1959 to a 20th position, after problems on a pit stop. That was Elkins’ last try at Indy until 1975 when he put Bill Puterbaugh in a rear-engined Offy, and Bill ended up seventh when the race was stopped. The next year Puterbaugh ran the car again and finished 22nd.
1977 was to be the last year Indy 500 for Lee Elkins. Puterbaugh finished 12th in Lee’s Eagle Offy.
Lee Elkin’ passed away in July of 1979, and it marked the end of Michigan’s longest Indy 500 car owner’s career. Lee later is an inductee in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.