Don MacTavish, 40 years after the Permatex 300 in 1969
Paul Zappardino
Tuesday January 13 2009, 8:30 AM
I have felt that there should be some recognition for Don MacTavish, On February 22 this year it will be 40 years since his life was cut short in the 300 at Daytona. As most of you probably know I am a fan of the old LMS division, and 2 of my first heroes in this division were Pete Hamilton and Don MacTavish. I saw Don many times at Beltsville, being from the Northeast (Baltimore Md.)The Permatex 300 was my favorite race of speedweeks. On that day Don was ready, he qualified well and had ben here before . He was on the eve of landing a GN ride after relocating from Dover, Mass. Don was driving the Gene White Mercury Cyclone #5, the race started and it took a couple of laps to get up to speed, around lap 10 a group of cars were coming out of the fouth turn, Don for whatever reason got loose and accelerated to correct it, he ended up going into the boiler plate at gate 7 at an estimated 165 mph. The front of the car desinigrated, the remains of the casr was facing oncoming race traffic and Sam Sommers hit the remains head on , the only consilation was that Don died as soon as he hit the wall. I remember that day because ABC Wide World of Sports was having a delayed broadcast of the 300, Dad brought a small tv to the shop so we could catch the race. When the time came there was a warning about how graphic the footing of the wreck would be , I wascleaning upthe shop and my Dad called me over and told me that Don was killed in the wreck, I started crying ( only 13) , To this day I have not seen the footage of this wreck, that day my Dad would not let me watch it. There are a couple of photos on this sight of the Don's car and Sam Sommer's car on this sight. The thing that always got me was the next day on the front page of the New York Times they showed pictures of the wreck, They showed the picture of don slumped over the front of the car without his legs!!!!!!! The Baltimore Sun only showed the picture of the impact into the wall, BUT still it was trematic to anyone. I have a friend that saved these pictures and about 15 years after the fact these pictures still horrified me . Stock Car racing Magazine did it the best, they just showed the engine laying on the track and that is all you had top see to imagine the carnage of that day. Now there are people that will say the wreck was "spectacular" , no it wasn't it was "HORRIBLE"!!!!!!!!I always wanted them to drive on a simulator and experience this type of wreck and see what they thought afterwards. I know I am p[robabl;y rambling on but it is something that is still on my mind. For the Northeast it was a devistating blow to us we were hoping to have a GN champion from up north, But I think Pete Hamilton made up for it when he won the 500 next year , BUT this is hoping that no one forgets the accomplishments and contributions made by Don and that his memory will always live on in the hearts on NASCAR fans from that age, As for me on February 22 at 12:30 I take a few moments of silence to pay respects to one of my LMS heroes , i hope you all do the same, As a matter of fact I still have the SCR issue of Speedweeks and i look at it also, always Don "Mac" MacTavish 1943-1969 RIP!!!!!!!!!!!! Paul Zappardino
Robert Kelleher
@robert-kelleher   14 years ago
Also one of my heroes and day I won't forget.
Ed Cummings
@ed-cummings   14 years ago
I was also a fan of Don's. I lived in Mass and saw him race many times at the Norwood Arena. I was at Daytona that day. My family always took that that week as winter vacation so my Dad and I could go to the races. I was sitting no more than 200 feet from where he hit that gate. The sound was sickining and I can still hear it today. By the time he was hit by Sam Sommers he was already gone. I remember writing his parents a note saying how sorry I was and that he would always be remembered.
Mike Sykes
@mike-sykes   14 years ago
Great story but a sad day in history to lose a driver the caliber of Don. He will always be remembered as a great driver. Thank for reminding us Paul.
Pete Banchoff
@pete-banchoff   14 years ago
It was the most graphic wreck I'd seen. They replayed it on TV and warned it was extremely graphic, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. I was about 15 at the time and my heart just sank! I'm sure there were worse wrecks, but none impacted me like that one did.Pete
Robert Staley
@robert-staley   14 years ago
i remember it too. abc showed just the wreck and never replayed the race broadcast... the right move. i had listened to the race on radio and already knew that don was gone.
terry strange
@terry-strange   14 years ago
Robert Staley
@robert-staley   14 years ago
that bandini coverage was way out of line. i remember many auto publications speaking harshly of abc. unfortunately the thought of gaining viewers through gore ( ala " faces of death ") was too much for abc to resist.
Robert Staley
@robert-staley   14 years ago
well said.