1964 Indianapolis 500


1964 Indianapolis 500

Results of the 1964 Indianapolis 500 held at Indianapolis on Saturday, May 30 1964.

It is best known for a fiery second-lap accident that resulted in the deaths of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald, involving a total of seven cars. It is also the last race won by a front-engined "roadster", as all subsequent races have been won by rear-engined cars.

achs-MacDonald Crash

MacDonald was driving a car owned and designed by Mickey Thompson, the #83 "Sears-Allstate Special". [ [http://thompson-motorsports.com/indy63.html Mickey Thompson @ 1963 Indy 500 ] ] It was a rear-engined car that first raced in 1963, updated with a streamlined body for 1964. The fuel was housed within rubber bladders inside of an enclosed tank that ran between the tires on the left side. The car also featured Sears "Allstate" tires, manufactured by Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. [ [http://www.indycar.com/news/story.php?story_id=8937 The Foyt Files :: IndyCar Series ] ] It was far ahead of its time, but was badly designed, poorly built and difficult to drive. [ [http://www.automobilemag.com/features/columns/0306_johnny_rutherford/ American Driver, Lone Star JR Johnny Rutherford - Columns - Automobile Magazine ] ] It handled badly, a condition made worse when the body was modified to accommodate the USAC-mandated 15 inch tires. Graham Hill tested the vehicle before Indy, but refused to drive it in 1963. Masten Gregory crashed earlier in the month due to aerodynamic lift. Other drivers took the advice of Gregory, and stayed away from the Thompson cars. Jim Clark told MacDonald on Carb Day, "Get out of that car mate, just walk away." The ride also offered to Mario Andretti, who turned it down due Andretti's concerns over his lack of experience and the fact that the ride was only for Indy. According to long-time motor sports journalist Chris Economaki, MacDonald never practiced with a full load of fuel due to Thompson's focus on high speeds. [ [http://www.autosport-atlas.com/article.asp?id=16748 Autosport.com ] ]

In the first lap of his first Indy 500 race in 1964, MacDonald passed at least 5 other cars. As MacDonald passed Johnny Rutherford and Sachs, Rutherford noticed that MacDonald's car was very loose, even throwing grass and dirt up from the edge of the track. Rutherford later said that, watching the behavior of MacDonald's car, he thought, "Whoa, he's either gonna win this thing or crash." [ [http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=211 Motorsport Memorial ] ]

On the second lap, MacDonald lost control coming off the fourth turn. As the car began to slide, he came across the track and hit the inside wall, igniting the gasoline in his fuel tanks (approximately 70-100 gallons) which caused a massive fire. His car then slid back across the track, causing seven more cars to be involved. Ronnie Duman crashed, spun in flames and hit the pit lane wall, and was burned. Bobby Unser hit another car, and Johnny Rutherford's car on its left rear tire, and crashed into the outside wall. Chuck Stevenson and Norm Hall also crashed.

Sachs, blinded by the smoke, hit MacDonald's burning car, and died in the fire before he could be freed. According to eye-witnesses, he was burned alive. His car, including his body, was covered by a tarp before being towed away during the cleanup. A lemon that had been on a string around Sachs' neck was found inside of Rutherford's car after the crash. [ [http://www.motorsportmemorial.org/focus.php?db=ct&n=211 Motorsport Memorial ] ]

MacDonald was pulled from the wreck and taken into the infield hospital, burned beyond recognition. His lungs were seared from flame inhalation, causing acute pulmonary oedema. He died at at 1:20 in the afternoon. [ [http://www.automobilemag.com/features/columns/0306_johnny_rutherford/ American Driver, Lone Star JR Johnny Rutherford - Columns - Automobile Magazine ] ]

The crash was well-documented in film and still images, and shown world-wide. For the first time in its history, a red flag stopped the Indy 500. Partially in response to media pressure, USAC mandated that cars carry less fuel, a change that also led every team to switch from gasoline to methanol prior to the next year's Indy 500. [ [http://www2.indystar.com/cgi-bin/indy500/index.php?action=show_race&id=48 IndyStar.com: Indy 500 ] ]

Indy 500 Walker
Previous_race = 1963
Previous_winner = Parnelli Jones
This_race = 1964
This_winner = A.J. Foyt
Next_race = 1965
Next_winner = Jim Clark

References


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