David George MacDonald (July 23, 1936 – May 30, 1964) was an American road racing champion noted for his successes driving Corvettes and Shelby Cobras in the early 1960s. At the age of 27 he was killed in the 1964 Indianapolis 500. In his 4 year racing career MacDonald competed in 110 races with 47 victories and 69 top 3 finishes.
Sports Car and NASCAR racing career
MacDonald began racing in 1956 running a ’55 Chevrolet Corvette on Southern California drag strips and at the end of 1959 had won over 100 trophies, all in Corvettes. He moved to the road racing circuit in 1960 and his first race was at Willow Springs Raceway on Saturday Feb 13, 1960 where he finished 4th behind winner Bob Bondurant. The following day MacDonald won the B-Production main event to record his first of many victories. By the end of 1962 he had driven Corvettes to 28 victories in 63 races, including 42 Top 3 finishes. His style of drifting through turns at full speed made him a crowd favorite and earned him the nickname "Master of Oversteer".
Carroll Shelby hired MacDonald away from Chevrolet to drive his new Ford-powered Cobra Roadster in the 1963 season. In MacDonald's first outing for Shelby American he drove Cobra CSX2026 to back-to-back victories at Riverside International Raceway on February 2-3, 1963. These were Cobra’s first wins. Ken Miles finished 2nd both days in Cobra CSX2002.
On February 17, 1963 MacDonald finished 4th in Cobra CSX2026 at the Daytona Continental FIA giving Ford Cobra its first top 5 finish in international competition. Shelby retired the 260ci engines and debuted the new 289ci engines in his Cobra Roadsters at Dodger Stadium March 3-4, 1963. MacDonald again won both days in CSX2026 giving the 289 its first wins.
In the fall of 1963, MacDonald rose to national prominence after a dominating five-week stretch on the USRRC and NASCAR circuits. During that period he won the two biggest and richest road races in America - the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix and the Monterey Pacific Grand Prix in Shelby King Cobra CM/1/63, finished 2nd at the Hawaiian Grand Prix in Cobra Roadster CSX2136, 2nd at NASCAR’s Golden State 400 in the Wood Brothers #21 Ford and 2nd in NASCAR’s Augusta 510 behind teammate Fireball Roberts.  MacDonald was awarded the Helms Athletic Foundation’s "Athlete of the Month" medallion for October 1963.
1964 was MacDonald’s final year in racing. He remained committed to a full Cobra schedule with Shelby American but also signed with Mickey Thompson to race in the '64 Indy 500 and with Ford factory member Bill Stroppe to run 21 NASCAR races that year. On February 23, 1964 he finished 10th in the Daytona 500 against a field NASCAR.com calls the "Greatest Field in NASCAR History" Richard Petty was race winner capturing his first of seven Daytona 500's.
March 1, 1964 MacDonald won the United States Road Racing Championships at Augusta International Raceway in Shelby King Cobra CM/1/63. His average speed of 97.653 MPH was 11 MPH faster than the previous track record set by Fireball Roberts in the Augusta 510. At the conclusion of this race veteran motor sports journalist Chris Economaki wrote that "Dave MacDonald of El Monte stamped himself as one of today's road racing greats".
March 21, 1964, MacDonald and Bob Holbert drove Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe CSX2287 to a 1st in GT & 4th OA finish in the 12 Hours of Sebring international endurance race. It was the highest ever finish for an American team and the first-ever win for the Cobra Daytona Coupe.
April 19, 1964 MacDonald won the Phoenix FIA Open at Phoenix International Raceway in Shelby King Cobra-Lang Cooper CM/1/64. This was the debut outing for CM/1/64 and its first and only win. The car was totaled by Shelby American teammate Bob Holbert at Kent on May 9, 1964.
May 10, 1964 MacDonald won the United States Road Racing Championships at Kent WA in King Cobra CM/3/63. The victory put him in a tie with Jim Hall for the United States Drivers Championship standings. This would be MacDonald's last race prior to his death three weeks later in the Indy 500.
Mickey Thompson hired MacDonald to drive one of his radical low profile rear-engine race cars in the 1964 Indy 500. Thompson's Ford-powered racers were specifically designed to run on tiny 12" tires and after debuting in the 1963 Indy 500 the cars became known as the "Super Skates". They were far ahead of their time, but badly designed and difficult to drive. Graham Hill tested the car before the '63 Indy race and refused to drive it because of its poor handling, a condition made worse for 1964 when Thompson was forced to completely redesign the cars to accommodate the new USAC-mandated 15-inch (380 mm) tires. One of the changes Thompson made was to fit his cars with a full-fendered aerodynamic body kit, unheard of at Indy's open-wheeled speedway. Several top drivers declined Thompson's offer to drive the revolutionary cars in 1964 and he ultimately selected MacDonald, Masten Gregory & 15-time Indy 500 competitor Eddie Johnson. Johnson was assigned the #82 car, MacDonald #83 and Gregory #84, all three cars crashed in practice. When Gregory took the #84 car out for its initial test with the larger tires he quickly lost control and crashed into the wall. He told Thompson the larger tires made the car too high, causing it to lift in the turns. Gregory soon quit the team and Thompson found it difficult to find a replacement as other available drivers took the advice of Gregory and stayed away. Days later Eddie Johnson crashed the #82 car when he took it into the wall during a practice session. Jim Clark, the 1963 world driving champion, was out practicing with MacDonald on Carb Day when he noticed strange movement from MacDonald's car. Clark followed him into the pits and urged his friend to "Get out of that car, mate - just walk away."  According to long-time motor sports journalist Chris Economaki, MacDonald never practiced with a full load of fuel due to Thompson's focus on high speeds. Despite handling woes MacDonald qualified the Thompson #83 car at an average speed of 151.464 mph, placing him in the middle of row 5 and in 14th position. Johnson qualified Gregory's rebuilt #84 car and placed it on the outside of row 8 and in 24th position. Neither Gregory nor the #82 car ran the race.
On the first lap of his first Indy 500 race in 1964, MacDonald passed at least 5 other cars. As MacDonald passed Johnny Rutherford and Eddie Sachs, Rutherford noticed that MacDonald's car was very loose. Rutherford later said that, watching the behavior of MacDonald's car, he thought, "Whoa, he's either gonna win this thing or crash." On the second lap, MacDonald spun coming off the fourth turn toward the front straight. The car began to slide across the track and hit the inside wall, igniting the 45 gallon fuel load which caused a massive fire. His car then slid back up the track toward the outside wall and six more cars became involved. Eddie Sachs, blinded by the smoke, broadsided MacDonald's burning car and according to reports died instantly due to blunt-force injuries. Dave MacDonald was transported to Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis where he died two hours later. Eddie Johnson retired the other Thompson car after only 6 laps. For the first time in its history the Indianapolis 500 was stopped because of an accident. The fiery crash led to safety changes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway including a USAC requirement that cars carry less fuel, a change that also led every team to switch from gasoline to methanol prior to the next year's Indy 500.
Carroll Shelby, Mickey Thompson, Bill Stroppe and Don Steves served as pallbearers at MacDonald's funeral.
- At the 1958 NHRA Western US Drag Racing Championships at Chandler Air Force Base in Arizona MacDonald set two standing start speed records in a stock '58 Corvette - 104.68 mph in the ¼ mile and 123.11 mph in the 1/2 mile. From 1958-1962 he set six more speed records in the 1/4, 1/2 and mile distances at annual speed trials in the US - all in Corvettes
- In 1962 Zora Arkus-Duntov selected Dave MacDonald and Dick Thompson to test-drive the new 1963 Corvette Stingray at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford Michigan. GM used footage of the two drivers testing the cars, and speaking with Mr Duntov afterward, to create a promotional film entitled “Biography of a Sports Car”. The film was distributed around the globe as part of a marketing campaign promoting the new coupe.
- In 1963, the Helms Athletic Foundation named MacDonald "Athlete of the Month" for October. The award was first issued in 1936 and given to the athlete who dominated his or her sport through outstanding performance. MacDonald was only the ninth auto racer to receive the prestigious honor and the first to receive it during the US football season.
- In 1964, MacDonald made a cameo appearance in Universal Pictures', The Lively Set. The movie starred James Darren, Pamela Tiffin and Doug McClure. MacDonald also performed racing scenes in the movie.
- In 2005, the Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society (AIRPS), in conjunction with city officials and homebuilders, named the main road looping through the new Diamond Lakes housing development Dave MacDonald Drive. A portion of the community is built on old speedway land. AIR was constructed in 1963 but only three races were ever run - two USRRC events and one NASCAR race. MacDonald competed in all three; finishing 1st in King Cobra CM/1/63 and 2nd in a Cobra Roadster in the USRRC races, and 2nd in NASCAR's Augusta 510.
- In 2008 Carroll Shelby told Hot Rod magazine that "Dave MacDonald had more raw talent probably than any race driver I ever saw".
- In 2010, the Riverside International Automotive Museum posthumously honored MacDonald at the "Legends of Riverside" event. Carroll Shelby, Richie Ginther, Phil Hill and Chuck Daigh were also honored at this event.
- In 2014, Dave MacDonald will be inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame.
- MacDonald drove each of the legendary Shelby Cobras — Cobra Roadster, King Cobra, King Cobra-Lang Cooper and Cobra Daytona Coupe — to their first-ever victories.
- The MacDonald family actively participate in tributes to Dave, Carroll Shelby, and other motorsport-related activity. Widow Sherry, along with son Rich, actively participate.
Sports Car and NASCAR results
|Year||Races||Wins||Top 3 Finish|
Indy 500 results
- "Driver results — Dave MacDonald".
- National Corvette Museum Corvette Hall of Fame.
- Shelby Cobra - The Shelby American Original Archives 1962 - 1965 pg 76.
- Shelby American Collection - Racing Archives.
- Shelby Cobra - The Shelby American Original Archives 1962 - 1965 pg 70.
- October 1963 Race Results - Dave MacDonald.
- The Helms Athletic Foundation "Athlete of the Month" award.
- "NASCAR.com - "Greatest Field in NASCAR History"".
- "1964 USRRC at Augusta International Raceway".
- "Davemacdonald.net - 1964 USRRC at Augusta International Raceway - Chris Economaki on MacDonald".
- "The CarSource.com - Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupes".
- "Phoenix International Raceway Historical Timeline".
- "United States Drivers Championship Standings May 1964".
- "American Driver, Lone Star JR Johnny Rutherford — Columns — Automobile Magazine".
- "1964 Indianapolis 500 - Wikipedia".
- "Motorsport Memorial".
- Los Angeles Times newspaper.
- "General Motors — Biography of a Sports Car".
- "Augusta International Raceway Preservation Society Driver Memorial".
- "Hot Rod Magazine".
- National Corvette Museum Corvette Hall of Fame.