Dave MacDonald - Corvette Legends

This installment of our story begins shortly after Dave MacDonald’s tragic crash at the 1964 Indy 500.

K. Scott Teeters Feb 21, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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But Doug was determined, having sold his '69 Z/28 Camaro to pay for the course. "Right away Bondurant told me, 'You drive like your brother. Slow down!' Bob's driving philosophy was 'slower is faster.' He taught students to thread the line and [not] rear-wheel drift. "After I completed the course, Bob was still on me a little about my 'MacDonald driving style.' To prove his point, he took the car out and did a few laps his way. Then I took the car out and did it my way. When I was done, it turned out that I had the better lap time." By this time, things had changed dramatically in racing. The days of just being a good shoe were over, and unless you had a pocketful of money, you were relegated to spectator status.

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A few years later, Doug connected with one of Dave's friends from the Shelby days, Louie Unser, older brother to Al and Bobbie. Although Lou suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, he was a whiz at building race cars. He helped Doug get into a dirt-track car and become "Rookie of the Year." Unfortunately, the car was stolen, and Doug couldn't afford to replace it.

Doug raced a little here and there, but never really got a break. When he developed a debilitating inner-ear disorder, he decided to hang up his helmet for good. "You can't be out on a racetrack not knowing if you might get vertigo," he says. After working for a performance carburetor company for 18 years, he landed a job with Northrop Grumman.

Doug shared with us one of his favorite memories of his brother: "Dave and Sherry were on their way home from St. Louis with the new ['63] Z06 Corvette, and my buddies and I were all anxiously waiting at the house for their arrival. About a hour out, Dave called to let us know they were on their way. I'll never forget seeing that white Sting Ray Coupe coming around the corner. It looked to me like a Buck Rogers spaceship! "Right behind them were about 17 cars that had followed Dave off the freeway. Before we knew it, there were 40 or 50 people gathered around the Corvette asking, 'What kind of car is that?' It was just amazing and made me forever a Corvette man."

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Today Doug is retired and enjoys spending time with his significant other, his speed boat, and his Atomic Orange '07 Z06.

Dave MacDonald's Legacy

At the height of Dave MacDonald's career, race cars were being developed at breathtaking speed. In some classes, a year-old car was completely obsolete. Since drivers and team owners are only interested in winning races, used race cars were usually sold off, then resold into obscurity.

Of the handful of cars MacDonald owned or was personally involved with, only three are accounted for: the Shelby Daytona, the King Cobra, and the Don Steves '63 Z06 Corvette. The Z06 was featured in Legendary Corvettes, by Randy Leffingwell, with stunning photography by Dave Wendt. By contrast, nearly all of MacDonald's race cars are accounted for and restored.

Perhaps the most enduring monument to MacDonald's career can be found more than 2,000 miles from where he made his name in racing, in Augusta, Georgia. On the land that was once home to the Augusta International Racing Complex now stand the Diamond Lakes Regional Park and a housing community. In honor of MacDonald's success at the speedway, the main road that runs through the community is named Dave MacDonald Drive. MacDonald raced at Augusta three times in 1963 and 1964, winning the '64 U.S. Road Racing Championships at the wheel of the Shelby King Cobra and finishing Second in both the USRRC-GT race (in a 289 Cobra Roadster) and the Augusta 510 NASCAR race (in a '63 Ford Galaxy).

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In 2005, Sherry MacDonald; her son, Rich; daughter, Vicki; and granddaughter, Erikka, attended the dedication ceremony for a granite monument honoring the names of the drivers who raced at the eight tracks that were part of the Augusta complex. One can't help but wonder how many of the residents living in the new community know of the thunder that used to roll through the hills, courtesy of those unmuffled racing machines.

In last month's article, we told you about Dave and Sherry's first date in his red '55 Corvette. Today, the car--owned by Scott and Marilyn Davis--could not have a better home: the National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It's been beautifully restored and is part of the Mobil Service Station display.

(Los Angeles) Herald-Examiner staff writer Wilson R. Springer was covering the 1964 Indy 500 and captured MacDonald's last comment to the press about his racing career, just after a day of track testing.

"There are thousands of guys who never do what they want to, and they step off a curb and get killed, or they get so disgusted with their lives that they die with heart trouble or drinking. I am doing what I always wanted to do, and I'm going to qualify for the race." Dave MacDonald is emblematic of a time when an average guy, with average means, could achieve his dreams thanks to hard work, family support, and talent.

Unlike in modern-day racing, where teams carefully document everything, record keeping was spotty back in the early '60s. Nevertheless, Rich MacDonald has closely examined his father's racing career and come up with what the MacDonald family considers to be an accurate tally for Dave's career. Of the 105 races MacDonald entered, he scored 45 First Place victories and finished in the Top 3 in 67 races. Given his formidable record, his distinctive driving style, and his affable personality, it's easy to see why Dave MacDonald ranks so highly among the legends of Corvette racing.

For more information, visit the Dave MacDonald tribute website at www.davemacdonald.net. Special thanks to the MacDonald family for their support and assistance with this article.

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