|The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|Fatalities - May 30, 1964
|Eddie Sachs - driver
Dave MacDonald - driver
Dave MacDonald was born in 1936.
MacDonald began racing in 1956, running a ’55 Chevrolet
Corvette on Southern Californian drag strips. He won over
100 trophies between 1956 and 1959, all in Corvettes.
He moved to the road racing circuit in 1960, still racing
He switched to racing Cobra's for Carroll Shelby in 1963.
In 1964, he intended to run the full Cobra schedule and he
signed to run 21 races in NASCAR for Bill Stroppe. He
also signed with Mickey Thompson to race in the next
two Indy 500s.
MacDonald was one of four rookies in the 1964 who broke
the 1 and 4 lap qualifying records of 1963.
Dave's father said that Dave had been concerned for
several days about the safety of this IndyCar, that "the car
seemed to lift and float out on the turns." The Thompson
Sears Special had been designed for 12-inch wheels, but
Indy regulations specified 15-inch wheels. Dave
apparently drove the car only because he had committed
himself to driving it.
While 300,000 fans anxiously watched the race,
MacDonald spun when coming out of turn 4 and hit the
inside retaining wall on his second lap.
Polesitter Jimmy Clark was in the lead. The crash killed
Eddie Sachs and forced five other drivers out of the race:
Norm Hall, Ronnie Duman, Chuck Stevenson, Bobby
Unser and Johnny Rutherford.
MacDonald's car had exploded, and both cars were on fire.
Hall, Duman and Unser hit the wall; and Stevenson and
Rutherford limped to the pits.
There were quite a variety of race cars in the 1964 Indy
500. More than half the field were still driving the front-
engined roadsters and A.J. Foyt won this race in one of
the 12 Watsons entered in the race.
Sachs and MacDonald were driving cars with Ford engines
mounted in the rear. Gas is more combustible and
unstable than the alcohol mixture that most racecars use.
Rescuers could not seem to get the fire out and there was
a demand immediately following the accident that gasoline
be banned as a fuel.
The race was stopped and restarted for the first time since
1926, when rain had halted the race. After an hour and 42
minutesthe 1964 race restarted.
Meanwhile, MacDonald was given blood plasma and
oxydgen at the track hospital. He was treated for sever
burns all over his body, and a tracheotomy was performed.
A little more than two hours after the cash, Dave
The day after the race the cleanup crew found a poem
scrawled on a chalkboard in MacDonald's pit area:
I know a speedway
In the sky
Where brave young drivers
And all who live
This racing game
Must know that fate
May call their name.
He was survived by his wife, Sherry, and his two children,
Richie (7) and Vicki (5).
Year Car No. Car Laps Completed Start Finish
1964 83 Thompson-Sears 1-exploded, died 14 29
Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, CA
|Dave MacDonald and Mickey Thompson (1964)
Edward Julius Sachs, Jr. was born in 1927 in
His career included eight USAC Championship Trail wins,
25 top-five finishes in 65 career AAA and USAC starts,
including the 1958 USAC Midwest Sprint Car
He was an eight time starter of the Indianapolis 500,
1957–64, winning the pole position in 1960 and 1961,
with his best finish being second in 1961. Leading the
race with only three laps to go, he saw his right rear tire
begin to delaminate and pitted, handing victory to
On the second lap, MacDonald lost control coming off the
4th turn. As the car began to slide, he came across the
track and hit the inside wall, igniting the 45 gallon fuel load
which erupted into a massive fire.
His car then slid back across the track. Sachs, following
Bob Veith, aimed for an opening along the outside wall
that was soon closed by MacDonald's burning car.
Veith made it through by inches, but Sachs hit
MacDonald's car broadside causing a second explosion.
A tree was set on fire. Flames leaped top the grandstands
and there was heavy black smoke.
Johnny Rutherford, following Sachs, having no place to
go except into the inferno, decided his only chance was to
power his way through. Going at full throttle his Watson
Roadster went under Sachs and over MacDonald taking
the injectors off of MacDonald's engine.
After clearing the wreckage he was then broadsided by the
NOVI of Bobby Unser. He then motored (on fire) down the
main straight, through turns one and two, up the back
straight and through turn three, stopping at a fire truck
station in turn four.
Ronnie Duman, following Rutherford, went to the left to
avoid the crash. It looked as if he was going to make it
through when he was rear ended by the out of control
NOVI, which had lost its steering, splitting his fuel tank
which also erupted.
Duman then spun into the infield wall where he received
serious burns. He was transported to the Methodist
Hospital burn unit by helicopter to begin a lengthy recovery.
Rutherford and Unser received minor burns and were
released from the track hospital.
MacDonald died two hours later at the hospital from burns.
Chuck Stevenson and Norm Hall were also involved,
but escaped injury.
Despite being trapped in his car, Sachs' drivers suit was
only scorched but he received critical burns on his face
The car was covered with a tarp before being taken to the
garage area for removal of his body. It has never been
determined if he died of asphyxiation, burns or blunt force
injury. His crew throught the steering post killed him by
crushing his chest. One driver stated that he saw him
struggling to get out of the car after the impact.
A lemon that had been on a string around Sachs' neck was
found inside Rutherford's engine compartment after the
He was survived by his wife Nancy, a son, Eddie (2), his
parents and a brother.
Year Car # Car Laps Start Finish
1957 88 Schmidt 105 2nd 23rd
1958 88 Schmidt 68 18th 22nd
1959 44 Schmidt 182 2nd 17th
1960 6 Dean Van Lines 132 1st 21st
1961 12 Dean Van Lines 200 1st 2nd
1962 2 Dean-Autolite 200 27th 3rd
1963 9 Bryant Heating 181 10th 17th
1964 25 American Red Ball 1 17th 30th
"I think of Indianapolis every day of the year, every hour
of the day, and when I sleep, too. Everything I ever
wanted in my life, I found inside the walls of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I love it all, from the first
to the last day in May. On the morning of the race, if you
told me my house had burned down, I'd say, "So what?"
The moment that race starts is always the greatest
moment of my life, and the day I win that race, it will be
as if my life has ended. There is nothing more I could
want out of life."
-- Eddie Sachs.
|Holy Saviour Cemetery, Bethlehem, PA