O'Donnell was killed when he and Gaston Chevrolet collided during the Thanksgiving DayBeverly Hills Speedway Classic race. Chevrolet was killed as well as O'Donnell's mechanic Lyall Jolls, who died the next day. O'Donnell started his career as a riding mechanic for Duesenberg race car driver Eddie Rickenbacker. When Rickenbacker left the Duesenberg Team to join the Peugeot Team, O'Donnell took over as driver. O'Donnell served as Captain of the Duesenberg team. He was highly successful on the dirt tracks and Board Tracks around the United States, also having raced on the road circuits.