New Show Helps Heal Old Wounds for Families that Racers Left Behind

savage 2Racing is dangerous. In the 1950-1980 period, prior to amazing advances in safety, it was deadly. Brian Redman indicated in his book, during that time, drivers literally had a one-in-three chance of being killed or maimed each year during their career. Great, notable drivers, who now merely register as legend, and some completely forgotten lost their lives behind the wheel in what many refer to as “the gilded age” of motorsport.

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But what becomes of the families that are left behind? The giant personality of a race driver is suddenly, and without warning, snuffed. For two specific families, the last 50 years since losing their fathers and husbands to turn four at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been one of pain and only recently has become an experience of healing and understanding.

Dave MacDonald and Swede Savage were never forgotten. The spectacular, fiery and horrifying IndyCar crashes that fatally injured them in 1964 and 1973, respectively, not only left behind wives and children, but a perpetual fanbase that have contributed keeping their legends alive — and thanks to social media — have helped those particular families heal.

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Angela Savage was born three months after her father Swede succumbed to injuries from his 1973 crash. She never met nor knew him. Her mother remarried and rarely spoke of Swede and his racing career. Angela grew up a virtual stranger to her natural father and dealt with the deep inner pain through the typical vices well into her adulthood. In 2014, thanks to a chance friendship and a crowdfunding campaign through Facebook, the lost daughter was brought to the Speedway for the 500, where she got to not only meet so many adoring fans, but stand on the spot where her father met his end — and make peace.

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Since, Savage has begun broadcasting a show through World Wide Digital Broadcasting Television, a Las Vegas based internet broadcaster, called “Good News with Angela Savage.” The premiere episode of 2017 is one certainly worth note. The guests for the interview are Sherry and Rich MacDonald, widow and son of racing legend Dave MacDonald, who was fatally injured in a two car crash in turn four at Indianapolis, along with Eddie Sachs, in 1964. The MacDonalds were invited to last year’s 100th running of the 500, and despite the anxiety that the Speedway has reverberated on the family over the last 53 years, they made the trip.

When Dave was killed, Sherry withdrew from the racing community. Her kids had a normal upbringing of stick and ball sports, but while having loving memories of Dave, did not get much exposure to racing. Rich MacDonald, in his adult life has become a very competent curator of his father’s legacy, discovering how important his marks on the racing world were — not only at Indy, but as a highly accomplished Corvette and Cobra road racer.

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During this particular episode, not only do the three speak of the horrors of losing their patriarchs, but speak of the healing that comes from knowing these legends are still adored and revered for their accomplishments. most of us cannot even fathom the tragedy of “Hero to Gone” and the mark it leaves on the heart. These notable families discuss it very openly.

Savage commented, “Personally the show gives me a place to remember, to honor, and to share my father with the people I would have always known. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I’m doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right people. I also want people who are struggling to know that there is life after alcoholism, addiction, depression, and other mental illness.”

Check it out. It’s worth a look.

About the author

Tom Stahler

At eight months of age, Tom Stahler sat in a baby stroller in Thunder Valley and watched Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott win the 1968 Road America 500. He has had the car bug ever since. He has won several awards, including the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and the International Motor Press Association's Gold Medal for his writing and photography. When not chasing the next story, Tom drives in vintage road racing events and spends time with his wife and three daughters in Orange County, California.
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