May 30, 1964 - The 48th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" - The Indianapolis 500. This page begins in October 1963 and offers
a chronological accounting of the 1964 Indy 500 from the Thompson Team's perspective.
Mickey Thompson hires sports car star Dave MacDonald to run one of his radical new low-slung racers in the '64 Indy 500.
Oct 1963 article regarding USAC rule change. After the '63 Indy 500 many car owners and drivers complained about Mickey Thompson's
This photo is from the garage area during the 1963 Indy 500 and shows the dramatic difference between Mickey Thompson's 12" slicks
Another comparison photo from 1963 practice, Mickey's 82 car. [Dave Friedman/The Henry Ford]
Photos below are from the November 1963 tire test session at the Speedway. Testing scheduled for five days beginning on the 26th with
Dave MacDonald, Masten Gregory and Duane Carter on hand. These crucial first laps with the larger 15 tires would either ease or confirm
the teams fears that the cars taller stance would have a negative effect on handling. Below MacDonald sits in the 82 car with compliant 15"
rubber while Thompson checks the scales. [Dave Friedman/The Henry Ford]
With the Thompson 82 fired up Dave MacDonald is pushed to the track for the moment of truth. Notice the crude air intake mod taped to the
Dave MacDonald back in after just a few laps in the 82 and the teams fears are realized. The larger tires increased the car's roll center and
Duane Carter takes his turn in the 82 car and is back in with a similar report, the car is lifting. A low center of gravity was a critical design
Day two of November testing was much colder. Dave MacDonald prepares to head out in the 82 while Duane Carter sits behind him in the
Duane Carter waiting for Dave MacDonald to return before he sets out in Thompson's 83 car. [Dave Friedman/The Henry Ford]
Bottom line is the November tests were nothing short of disaster and Mickey cancelled the five day session after day two to go home to Long
With the November tests cut short Dave had an unexpected break before his scheduled arrival in the Bahamas on 12/1 to run the King Cobra
Dave (seated on wall by driver's door w/Shelby shirt underneath his sweater) met up with Fred Lorenzen (behind car) and the Holman Moody
Meanwhile Mickey Thompson had trailered both cars back to his Long Beach California speed shop and began chassis and suspension mod-
Dec 6, 1963 - Mickey Thompson describes the disappointing November test session to Los Angeles Times writer Bob Thomas. "The cars
Mickey Thompson was not only a hard charger and brilliant innovator, but a charismatic salesman as well. Just a sophomore at Indy but
Sherry MacDonald's notes from March 1964. Dave MacDonald flies back to the Brickyard for additional testing on the Thompson racers.
Dave and the Thompson team are on the track early on March 17th, Sears tire people were back too for a first hand look at hopeful progress
Sears tire engineers performing tests after Masten Gregory's run. Gregory and MacDonald agreed with Graham Hill that handling issues
remained but both drivers felt an improvement and at this point at least would stay committed to the team.
Sherry's notes show Dave & Masten only managing low speeds at these March tests. Dave 135 mph with the lighter Chevrolet engine and
Changes indeed! Mickey assembles the press on April 21 to show off his newly redesigned Ford Sears Allstate Special. He'd completely
Dave MacDonald and Mickey Thompson. Photo Dave Friedman
Driver Dave MacDonald (C) and car owner Mickey Thompson (R) with the newly designed Thompson #83 car.
On April 22, 1964 the LA Times gives readers a first glimpse at Mickey Thompson's new full fendered aero design Indy car.
Four days later the El Monte Herald runs a photo and the southland is buzzing about Thompson's futuristic Indy car
May 1, 1964. The Brickyard officially opens for practice.
All eyes on Mickey Thompson's exotic full-fendered superskate as the team begins practice at the brickyard. Bright and early on May 1, the
Thompson #83 car (MacDonald's car) and Chuck Rodee's #87 are pushed out for some track time. In addition to the aero skins, there were
many other modifications made to the cars since the March tests, including major chassis & suspension adjustments all in an effort to
resolve instability issues. Mickey's rear wing attachments were still ruled out by USAC officials. Photo courtesy IMS.
Mickey Thompson's new design was a dramatic departure from the traditional open wheel Indy racer. Thompson was a brilliant innovator
and his aero kit's were far ahead of their time but still unproven on these cars, and at the Brickyard. To date only wind tunnel testing had
been performed but now rubber meets road and the question of whether or not the aero skins would counteract the lifting and floating caused
by the 15" tires would be answered. Dave MacDonald's #83 racer pushed to the pit area and readied for initial testing. [The Henry Ford]
Dave MacDonald is pushed out in the #83 for its initial run. On return Dave would tell Mickey anything above 145 mph and the front end lifts.
Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Out next was Masten Gregory in Duane Carter's #82 car. [First Turn Productions]
Gregory returns from his practice run in the 82 and tells Mickey the car is not only not sticking in the corners but lifting in the straights too,
Throughout the day on May 1 the Thompson team made adjustments to the cars of Masten Gregory and Dave MacDonald and here the
Crowd favorite Eddie Sachs takes his American Red Ball Express Ford out for practice laps on May 2nd. Dave MacDonald in the Thompson
Late in the afternoon on May 2nd it was time for Dave MacDonald to perform his rookie test. The cars remained in adjustment mode and
After successfully completing his two day rookie testing Dave MacDonald removes his rookie stripe as Mickey Thompson and track safety
director Paul Johnson look on. Johnson and veteran USAC Director Jim Thompson were overseeing the testing process and both said they
were impressed with Dave. He laid em in there very consistently, said Thompson, Hes a very good looking boy. Photo IMS.
Jimmy Clark (L) and Dan Gurney congratulate Dave MacDonald on being the first rookie eligible for the '64 Indy 500. Photo courtesy
of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dave MacDonald chats with friend and reigning Indy 500 Champion Parnelli Jones (R) outside the Thompson garage. Photo IMS.
Mickey Thompson in a Brickyard conversation with Honda founder Soichiro Honda (hat) and an interpreter. The motorcycle company had
Rookie test aside, the crew knew that running at 130 mph is far different from side by side racing at 180 so they continued to look for a
setup that would provide speed as well as control. The Thompson crew would work on MacDonald's car while he flew back to California
to run a race for Carroll Shelby. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Dave was becoming a Ford "Works" driver and having signed a 20-race NASCAR contract with factory member Bill Stroppe was scheduled
So on May 2nd Dave left Indy for California to run King Cobra against Jim Hall's Chaparrals. Courtesy Indianapolis Times 5/3/64
Dave ran a strong race at Laguna Seca but came up a bit short, finishing 2nd sandwiched between the Chaparrals of Jim Hall & Roger Penske.
Dave flew back to the Speedway immediately after the Laguna Seca race and was testing the Thompson #83 car again here on May 4th.
An unhappy Masten Gregory brings the #84 car back in and is becoming increasingly vocal about the car's handling woes. (Dave Friedman)
Another late afternoon run for Dave MacDonald in the 83. Colin Chapman (far left) over for a look see. [Bruce R Craig]
Adding further controversy to Mickey's cars was Colin Chapman's discovery of a radical third-wheel steering arm connected to the right
rear wheel of Mickey's racers. This went completely unnoticed by track officials during car inspections. When this news hit the wires any-
one who wasn't already talking about the Thompson superskates, was now. Mickey was a brilliant innovator, and while many of his con-
cepts were revolutionary they didn't always receive proper development time. This was more of an experimental solution Mickey concocted
to help resolve the floating issues. By all accounts it was disconnected by race time.
Mickey brought in several different nose cone configurations from his Long Beach California speed shop in an effort to find a setup
that kept the car's from lifting in the front.
Dave MacDonald's #83 car gets fitted with a new front aero shell and is pushed from the garage to the painter to be numbered. A new rule
Sign Mickey Thompson hung in his Indy garage. Mickey was already unhappy with USAC for banning his tiny 12" tires, and then for
May 6 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary" about how the Thompson crew had been out running yarn tuft tests with
MacDonald's #83 car. The crew stationed cameras at several points throughout the track to monitor and film the movement of the tufts.
Mickey also cut air vents into the tops of the front shells and was experimenting with various configurations in an effort to improve handling.
May 5 photo of Dave MacDonald in the 83 running with air tufts test with a new aero front shell; a freshly painted #83 to satisfy new Indy
Masten Gregory (Goggles) continues to complain about poor handling on the 84 & 82 cars, but now hes becoming more vocal and telling
Thompson has the crew fit a new freshly painted front shell to Carter's 82 car and prepare it for Dave MacDonald. Mickey wanted Dave's
Sherry's notes told to her by Dave on May 6
Through at least May 7, Mickey had Dave do additional testing with the 82 car trying to sort the handling issues. They could only run a top
After hitting just 120MPH in the 82 car Dave MacDonald brings it back in and explains the problems to Mickey. (The Henry Ford)
Mickey and the team push the 82 straight to the garage where Thompson chief mechanic Peter Bryant would brainstorm with the crew for a
Sherry's notes told to her by Dave on May 7 (Parnelli hit 156.223 in "Calhoun", Agajanian's front engined Roadster)
Dave MacDonalds heavy load running three racing circuits continued as he was scheduled to run the Stroppe #17 Merc in the Rebel 300
Dave at the track with JC Agajanian & Parnelli Jones on May 9 prior to leaving for the US Road Racing Championships at Kent. Not
Dave hops a 5:30PM flight to Kent WA to run Carroll Shelby's King Cobra in the May 10 United States Road Racing Championships
At Kent Dave ran King Cobra CM/3/63 to victory outdueling Jim Hall and his mighty Chaparral - Dave invited Jim to share in the victory
Dave MacDonald's victory in USRRC Championships left him tied with Jim Hall atop the leaderboard in the Drivers standings. Kent would
Business at hand so no time to enjoy the USRRC victory. Four hours after the race Dave is on a flight back to Indianapolis and bright and
The Thompson garage was always bustling as the crew continuously worked on all three race cars throughout the month of May.
Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Photo The Henry Ford
Suspension and frame get a complete makeover, everything was strengthened. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Photo The Henry Ford
Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
While in the midst of another teardown you can see that only the left side of MacDonald's 83 carries a rubber fuel bladder. [The Henry Ford]
May 13 and Masten Gregory back out for a practice laps in the 84 car. He loses control and slams into the outside wall. Gregory is unhurt
but says he's had enough and leaves the Thompson team. Before storming off he tells Mickey he believes air getting trapped beneath the
enclosed fenders is the major factor in why the cars are so unstable.
Dave MacDonald relays the day's activities to wife Sherry who notes the crash in her personal calendar.
May 14th Indianapolis AP article about Masten's crash
Mickey & crew gather in the garage for a look at Masten Gregory's crashed #84 racer. Photo Dave Friedman
Photo Dave Friedman
An already stretched Thompson crew realizing the additional workload getting the #84 car race ready. Dave Friedman photo
In this photo of Gregory's 84 car you get a good look at the rubber gas bladder Mickey put in his Indy cars. Photo The Henry Ford.
With his wrecked #84 racer at his side a dejected Mickey Thompson ponders his next move. Meanwhile SAI chief mechanic Wally
Gregory true to his word leaves the Thompson team and takes an open spot with the Dean Van Lines team. He begins to openly criticize
Mickey Thompson responds to Gregory's criticism of "trapped air" by grabbing a file & hacksaw and cuts fender channels in MacDonald's
Mickey tells crew chief Peter Bryant to take over. Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
The team pushes MacDonald's #83 racer to the track, with Dave still inside, and continue to cut crude fender channels. (Dave Friedman)
Mickey sent Dave back to the track with the fender channels and Dave promptly clocked his fastest laps of the month - a four lap average
The following morning the Thompson team is back at the track ready to run the #83 car with the new fender channels. (First Turn Productions)
Dave MacDonald strapped in and ready to continue testing with the newly cut fender channels. On his return he would report that handling
Overhead view of Dave MacDonald's #83 car shows the handmade cuts to the fenders. Intake vents were added to the cone as well.
May 15 - Sherry MacDonald receives a call from Dave who's disappointed his #83 car won't be ready for Pole Day tomorrow, the first day
May 16th, Pole Day! A record crowd of more than 200,000 fans turn out to see what promises to be record breaking speeds. Dave
MacDonald is pushed out in the Thompson 83 car. Getty Images
Dave MacDonald learns that Mickey Thompson has changed his mind and decided to attempt a qual run in the #83 car. The crew worked
The moment of truth has arrived and Dave settles into the Ford Allstate Special before his qualifying attempt. Dave Friedman photo
Broadcaster Chris Economaki sneaks in a word with Dave before his qual run. Mickey Thompson & Dan Gurney look on. (Dave Freidman)
Dave MacDonald exiting turn 4 on his Pole Day qual run. Distinct difference between this photo - with the car at speed - and the photo
The recent modifications, especially the fender channels have the 83 running the best its run all month and Dave MacDonald qualifies
Mickey Thompson's 83 car is successfully into the 1964 field. (Dave would eventually be placed in the middle of row 5, in 14th position).
Dave tells Sherry the good news! She was caught off guard thinking they weren't going to run a qual attempt that day. She happily noted the
Jim Clark also happy after cranking an average speed of 158.858 MPH, which would be good for the Indy 500 pole. Photo The Henry Ford
Dave MacDonald's Shelby Cobra teammate Dan Gurney. Colin Chapman leans in to tell Dan he just smoked the oval with a
Later in the day Dave MacDonald is pushed out for more practice runs in the 83 car. Mickey Thompson checking his custom-cut fender
Photo Dave Friedman from The Henry Ford
Photo Dave Friedman from The Henry Ford
Late in the day on May 17th Dave MacDonald is out practicing in between sporadic day 2 qualifying. He rounds turn 2 and the engine on
his Sears Allstate Ford gives out. The Thompson team tows Dave back to the garage. The team had no more engines available and a Ford
engineer told Mickey it would be days, maybe a week before Detroit could send another. Mickey was not allowed to use an engine from
the #82 & 84 cars as Detroit made it clear the priority was to keep them running and get them in the field too. MacDonald wanted the
track time but with nothing to do he flew back to California later that evening to be with his family. Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Towards the end of day 2 qualfying on May 17th, Eddie Sachs runs his Ford powered American Red Ball Special to a four lap average of
Still down a racer after Gregory's departure, Mickey Thompson put word out he was looking for an available driver. Bobby Unser brought
young 24 yr old Mario Andretti by the Thompson garage and Mickey immediately offered him the ride. Andretti agreed to come by the next
day and test the car but never showed. Thompson then turned to 15-time Indy 500 competitor Eddie Johnson and invited him to the team.
Johnson accepted but during his initial runs with the 82 car he was only able to get into the mid 140's.
Later in the day as Eddie ran considerably faster as he continued to familiarize himself with the Thompson 82 car. Mickey was pleased.
Mickey and the team continue chassis mods
On May 19 Eddie Johnson discovered that even with the improved stability of fender channels the cars were still a work in progress. In a
late morning practice run in the #82 car Johnson lost control at speed and put it into the outside wall. Already overworked, Peter Bryant
and his crew would now need to put the #82 car back together. Photo William Oates
May 19 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary" referencing Eddie Johnson's crash in the #82 car. Eddie was unhurt
The Thompson crew removes Eddie Johnson's crashed #82 racer from the tow truck and pushes it to the garage. Photo The Henry Ford.
Mickey and crew work feverishly in the hopes of qualifying two, or even all three cars into the field. Eddie Johnson will try to qualify the
May 22 - MacDonald's engine is back from Detroit and Dave wastes no time getting additional practice laps. In the afternoon session the
Saturday May 23rd. The final weekend of qualifying had arrived and if drivers were going to get their cars into the '64 field it would have
The Thompson crew put fresh new body panels on the #84 for Eddie Johnson.
Eddie could only manage a mid 140's average and Thompson, knowing it wouldn't be fast enough to make the field did not accept the
Dave MacDonald's teammate Eddie Johnson heads out for a final qual attempt in the Thompson 84 car. Getty Images
Eddie had a great run averaging 152.905 mph and Thompson was confident it was fast enough to avoid getting bumped from the field on
Article noting that Eddie Johnson had put a second Thompson racer in the field.
Veteran racer Chuck Arnold was out of a ride after his Chevy powered MRC Special failed to make speed. After seeing Johnson qualify
But Peter Bryant knew the crew didn't have time to prepare the #82 car for a Sunday qual run and he told Thompson as much. Mickey, under
Bump Day the 24th and with the #82 body panels reportedly on MacDonald's #83 car Mickey sends driver Chuck Arnold out to get familiar
Chuck Arnold spun the low-slung car heading into turn 1 on his second practice lap. He missed the wall but the caution flag came out halting
The car went back to the garage until Arnold put it on the track for his second practice run at 2PM, and spun again, this time in turn 3. Two
MacDonald takes the Thompson Ford Sears Allstate Special 83 car down pit road and onto the Speedway for some practice laps. Getty Images
Typical Bump Day at the Brickyard, fast paced car hopping was in full swing. Drivers and car owners frantically searched each other out
With less than an hour left in qualifying Mickey Thompson went looking for of all people, Masten Gregory, who was at the Brickyard to
Bump Day excitement and the joy of Eddie Johnson qualifying ended quickly for Dave MacDonald when he learned good friend Glenn
Days later famed journalist Chris Economaki hears rumors about body panel swapping in the Thompson camp. Econamaki wrote about
Carb Day May 28th and drivers get one last day of practice to dial in their cars before the big race. Dave MacDonald fueling up before one
Hes in and out most of the day getting much needed track time in the #83 Thompson Ford. He would twice however be forced to the pits
Some reports say that at one point during the day World Driving Champion Jimmy Clark was running his Lotus directly behind MacDonald
Dave MacDonald wraps up his final practice run in the Mickey Thompson 83 racer. Caption below mentions late adjustments for a full fuel
The field is set and IMS introduces 33 of the best drivers in the world at the 1964 Indy 500 media day festivities. You can see on pit wall
that Dave's last name was misspelled, this was a common occurance in newspapers throughout his racing career. Photo Dave Friedman.
Drivers seated in makeshift stands enjoying the festivities. Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs are next to one another (middle of row 2)
A closer look at some of the drivers. Photo Dave Friedman.
Polesitter Jim Clark receives trophy for fastest qualifier. [IMS]
Still in his sweater & tie Dave MacDonald is back at the Thompson garage signing autographs.
Thompson, Bryant and the rest of the crew worked tirelessly to get the cars ready, right up until the night before the race. (Flip Schulke)
Final starting positions for the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Dave MacDonald is in the middle of the 5th row
Indy veteran Eddie Sachs in his rear engine Ford will start in the 17th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Len Sutton will start in the middle of row 3
Eddie Johnson will start the Thompson #82 in the 24th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Dave MacDonald will start the Thompson #83 in 14th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Dave's autographed Indy photo. From the collection of John Douglas, used with permission
Another nice autographed print of Dave from the Gordon Bandemer collection.
L-R Peter Bryant, Mickey Thompson, Fritz Voigt
MCA-TV (Music Corporation of America) announced the first ever Indy 500 broadcast to a national closed-circuit TV audience
Race day. As pre race activities get underway Thompson teammates Dave MacDonald and Eddie Johnson appear to be engaged in a
Eddie Johnson's 84 car along pit road. Notice the last minute air scoop addition to the right of the driver. This late modification appears
Both Dave MacDonald's #83 car Eddie Johnson's 84 car along pit road as fans begin to fill the stands. Photo unknown
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is brimming wth excitement as nearly three hundred thousand fans on hand for the 500. Photo The Henry Ford
Cars and drivers begin to fill the grid for the start of the race. Dave MacDonald and John Mecom (R) in pre race chat. Photo Dave Friedman
John Mecom (L) and Dave MacDonald (C) again. Photo Dave Friedman
Eddie Johnson's 84 car ready to go and pushed out to the track. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Benson Ford sits in sparkling new Ford Mustang - 1964 Indy 500 pace car. Photo courtesy IMS.
Several more Ford Mustang Pace Car's would circle the track before the race. Photo unknown
Photo The Henry Ford Collection
Official Ford Mustang Pace Car taking the cars around the track before start of the '64 Indy 500. Jim Clark on the pole. Photo Ed Maudlin
Dave MacDonald in the middle of row 5 with Eddie Sachs Behind him
Beautiful color image showing the view out of turn 4 and onto the front straight. The big tree on far left of photo is where Dave MacDonald's
You can just see the second Thompson entry deiven by Eddie Johnson - the 84 car.
Front row of Jim Clark, Bobby Marshman & Rodger Ward.
Pace Car off and the race goes green. Rear of Jimmy Clark's Lotus barely visible as the field enters turn 1. Getty Images
Jim Clark in the #82 Ford Lotus gets a great start and is already separating from the pack.
Eddie Sachs makes an early move to the outside and jumps Dave MacDonald, Johnny Rutherford and Ronnie Duman and was 13th as the
field went into turn one. In the shuffle MacDonald still looks to be in 14th position and '63 world champion Jim Clark leads the pack.
Jim Clark with a comfortable lead as the field goes thru one and toward the short chute. [IMS]
Entering the short chute between 1 and 2, Dave MacDonald still in 14th position but Rutherford would go by him before lap's end.
Deeper into one you see Dave MacDonald tucked in behind Johnny Boyd (88) with Ronnie Duman (64) directly behind. Eddie Sachs
During laps 1 and 2 Dave MacDonald had moved past Don Branson, Len Sutton & Dick Rathman and repassed Eddie Sachs and Johnny
Rutherford in the process. As leader Jim Clark crossed the line to start lap 3 Jim Hurtibise, Walt Hansgen & Dave MacDonald were coming
out of turn four running 8-9-10. As Dave exited turn 4 and onto the front straight he pulled driver's left to make a move on Walt, and perhaps
Herk too, down the straightaway. A split second later Walt went drivers left to make his own move on Herk. Two cars behind MacDonald
was Len Sutton who would later say Dave turned left again to avoid Walt and his car got sideways. Dick Hensley, a fireman stationed at
Turn four said MacDonald came through the fourth turn with two other cars. As he came off or number four he cut to pass. Then the front
end of his car lifted at least 1 to 1 ½ feet off the ground. It looked as if the wind just hit him.
At the bottom is leader Jimmy Clark streaking into turn 1 at the beginning of lap 3 and at the top is the start of the crash that would claim
The aftermath. The fire truck at the very bottom of this photo is parked next to Dave MacDonald's car. The dark marks on the track show
Cars that made it through have come back around and parked as the cleanup continues
Eddie Johnson is among the cars parked. You can see the anguish on Eddie's face as he looks toward the horror in front of him knowing that
Dave MacDonald's car in the foreground, Eddie Sachs' in the background. RIP. Getty Images
The race was eventually restarted and legendary racer AJ Foyt went on to win. A happy but subdued AJ holds a glimpse of what tomorrow's
headlines will read. Two popular racers - Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald would die in the fiery crash. RIP Dave and Eddie. Photo IMS
A record payout for the 1964 Indy 500 and race winner AJ Foyt's share was a staggering $153,650. The richest Formula One race in the
The Thompson team was awarded $11,000 in prize money - $5,900 for Eddie Johnson and $5,100 for Dave MacDonald. Dave's portion
This beautiful epitaph was written by Kirby Guyer
JC Agajanian was kind enough to offer Mickey and a distraught Sherry MacDonald a ride back to California on his chartered plane.
Letter from USAC's Henry Banks to Dave MacDonald's wife Sherry after the 1964 Indy 500
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
Los Angeles Times
Both Sherry MacDonald and Nance Sachs sent emotional support to the other. Sherry sent flowers while Nance sent a telegram
Sherry MacDonald at Dave's funeral in California