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Thread: Don MacTavish

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    Don MacTavish

    For New England racers of a certain age, there is no name that carries more emotion than Don MacTavish.

    There certainly has been no more horrific moment & image than that of Don MacTavish's demise.

    And, there is a horrible unfairness that this superb driver & fine man is remembered so vividly for his ghastly death, than for his storied career, wonderful life & for the joy he imparted.






    From MS Memorial - "Don MacTavish started his career at the age of 15 [17? vg] racing at Norwood, quickly gaining popularity for driving demo derby cars, appearing also on ABC-TVís Wide World of Sports. He competed in more than 100 Sportsman cars races on the East Coast. In 1963 he progressed to NASCARís Sportsman Division and in 1966 he won the NASCAR National Sportsman Championship, his closest competitors being Ralph Earnhardt, "Wild" Bill Slater and Rene Charland among others.

    On 22 February 1969 MacTavish made his debut at the Daytona International Speedway, driving the number 5 1966 Mercury Comet in the Permatex 300 support Sportsman race. During this race his vehicle tangled with car number 68, driven by Bob James. Out of control, MacTavish's car hit the outside crash wall at a point where a metal guard rail covered an opening in the wall. The impact with the butt end of the concrete sheared off the whole front of the car, up to the firewall; its engine was thrown 100 feet [33 meters] from the wreck. The Mercury then spun around and wound up facing oncoming cars in the middle of the track surface, with poor MacTavish exposed. It was then struck by the Sam Sommers, who was driving car number 27; at the speed the cars were travelig, it would have been impossible for Sommers to avoid contact. This second impact sent MacTavish's car bouncing into the grass on the inside of the track. MacTavish was killed at the spot.

    Three months after his death the first annual 100-lap "Don MacTavish Memorial Race" was organized at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Richie Evans who won the race from Jerry Cook, second and Rene Charland, third, were presented the winner's trophy by Mrs. Dorothy Mac Tavish and Miss Marcia MacTavish mother and sister of the late driver for whom the event was named.

    http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=718

    The United States Army Times http://www.militarycity.com/valor/honor.html

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    courtesy Norwood Arena Speedway . com

    "For New England racers of a certain age, there is no name that carries more emotion than Don MacTavish." boardtrack

    Very true Vin. I was a world away and many years removed from racing and Mac when I heard the news on the radio.
    Only knew him for a few years before I left for the service in 1961.
    Mac, Pete Hamilton and myself were all about 14 or 15 and smitten by racing at an early age when we first illegaly began participating in The Novice Division at Norwood Arena. The families would of had us arrested had they known, all of us had fictitious names and good stories to explain our absence on Saturday nights.
    Mac had an inherent racing skill, personality and drive as well as a keen sense of humor.
    Once Mac had turned 16 and received a reluctant OK from his parents the racing director, Carl Merril (a strict AAA Pillsbury character) forgave him for the deceptions and Mac -having ruined his own - returned the favor by removing Carl's radiator in the middle of the night.
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    I remember the pictures of that accident when I was a kid in the newspapers the next day, the whole front of the car gone and poor Don completely exposed. He was a talented driver that would have done well in NASCAR, no doubt. Thanks for this post, he deserves to be remembered for his ability and not his fatal accident.
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    Thanks for the postings, and for remembering that boy. That crash caused me to do something I would normally never have done. During the winters, we were always slot racing at a model shop in a shopping center in Louisville. One of our racers was a nerdy, arrogant sporty-car freak. One of those who thought his type of racing was the only kind worth watching. We were racing one night early in February of the next year. He was on my left and while we were setting up, he commented, "I wonder who Roone Arledge is going to get killed at Daytona this year." I unclipped my control leads, put my car back in the box, closed the box, and then knocked him across the room, and left. I was only in my 20s then, and a bit impulsive at times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by indybigjohn
    Thanks for the postings, and for remembering that boy. That crash caused me to do something I would normally never have done. During the winters, we were always slot racing at a model shop in a shopping center in Louisville. One of our racers was a nerdy, arrogant sporty-car freak. One of those who thought his type of racing was the only kind worth watching. We were racing one night early in February of the next year. He was on my left and while we were setting up, he commented, "I wonder who Roone Arledge is going to get killed at Daytona this year." I unclipped my control leads, put my car back in the box, closed the box, and then knocked him across the room, and left. I was only in my 20s then, and a bit impulsive at times.
    I think we've all thrown that same punch at some time in our early lives.

    On further reflection, many of us have been the recipient and learned from it.

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    Thanks, Carl.

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    Not a pleasant memory for me. As I recall, ABC showed the incident but warned viewers beforehand that it wasn't pretty.

    Hell...he could have unbuckled and stepped right out the front of that car before being hit had he been able to.

    Nasty indeed.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl s
    I think we've all thrown that same punch at some time in our early lives.

    On further reflection, many of us have been the recipient and learned from it.
    I watched a buddy take a serious endo down the fence many years ago.
    Three pin heads next to me were whooping it up over the "cool wreck" they just saw.

    I never touched them but did I look one pin head right in the eye and said
    "thats my friend"

    they got real silent

    My buddy was fine
    God loves Jim Nabors

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Chiszar
    ......As I recall, ABC showed the incident but warned viewers beforehand that it wasn't pretty.
    ABC may have ran a 'warning', but they played that horrible death footage ..over & over & over & over & over...ad infinitum.......ad nauseam.

    Absolutely disgraceful. A major blight on Roone Arlege's career.

  10. #10
    I have the abc footage of the wreck. It was one of the worst crashes that I have ever seen.

  11. #11
    Dirt biker/carp hunter Stick500's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by movracefan
    I have the abc footage of the wreck. It was one of the worst crashes that I have ever seen.
    I'm just curious movracefan, how does one acquire ABC footage from well before the days of VCRs? - I imagine they never replayed that wreck in modern times.
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  12. #12
    I guess being online at the right time. If anyone is interested in getting a copy, pm me. I have lots of stuff like that. I will be getting some indycar stuff that has not been seen in 30 years from tracks that have been gone for years.

  13. #13
    I have just uploaded the crash video to youtube. Just search for 1969 Daytona Permatex 300. I hope you guys see what a terrible crash it was.

  14. #14
    Runnin down a dream cbreez99's Avatar
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    I watched it, and mercifully it looked like Don was unconsious or maybe even already deceased when Sommers hit him. He looked to be thrown from the car with his safety belts tethering him...I had not seen it since I watched it in 1969.

    You question the welding of that front clip...even hitting the gate as he did I can't believe it came off so cleanly. I guess back then, who really knows how those sportsman cars were built. Maybe by someone not familiar with large track speeds and dynamics.

    God Bless his Soul.
    Ignorant men marvel at extraordinary things. Intelligent men admire simple things.

  15. #15
    Here is the link:

    1969 Daytona Permatex 300

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEOPHjFRyKY

  16. #16
    Here is the link:

    1969 Daytona Permatex 300

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEOPHjFRyKY

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by movracefan
    Here is the link:

    1969 Daytona Permatex 300

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEOPHjFRyKY
    this is the address I got

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtWUfFiXIkM
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  18. #18
    Dirt biker/carp hunter Stick500's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbreez99
    I watched it, and mercifully it looked like Don was unconsious or maybe even already deceased when Sommers hit him. He looked to be thrown from the car with his safety belts tethering him...I had not seen it since I watched it in 1969.

    You question the welding of that front clip...even hitting the gate as he did I can't believe it came off so cleanly. I guess back then, who really knows how those sportsman cars were built. Maybe by someone not familiar with large track speeds and dynamics.

    God Bless his Soul.
    yeh, I agree cbreez, poor Don probably was already gone by the time the second car hit him- as gruesome as the wreck was, it does appear though that he stayed pretty much where the seat was- what looks like his body flying out of the cockpit after the second impact in the video is apparently sheet metal/bodywork.

    here's some still photos of the wreck, including one of the car after it came to rest-

    Warning- not for the feint of heart....
    Link to still shots

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