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The 1964 Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedwaymarker on Saturday, May 30, 1964. It was won by A.J. Foyt, but 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.

Sachs-MacDonald Crash

MacDonald was driving a car owned and designed by Mickey Thompson, the #83 "Sears-Allstate Special". 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. It was far ahead of its time, but was badly designed, poorly built and difficult to drive. It handled badly, a condition made worse when the body was modified to accommodate the USAC-mandated 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 to 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.

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."

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, aimed for an opening along the straight away wall that was soon closed by MacDonald's burning car. He hit MacDonald's car broadside causing a second explosion and died instantly of blunt force injuries. Despite being trapped in a flaming inferno his driver's suit was only scorched and he received slight burns on his face and hands. The car was covered with a tarp before being towed to the garage area for removal of his body. A lemon that had been on a string around Sachs' neck was found inside of Rutherford's engine compartment after the crash.

MacDonald was pulled from the wreck and taken into the infield hospital. Though badly burned, he was conscious and alert. His lungs were seared from flame inhalation, causing acute pulmonary oedema. He died at 1:20 in the afternoon.

The crash was well-documented in film and still images, and shown worldwide. For the first time in its history, the Indianapolis 500 was stopped because of an accident. Partially in response to media pressure, USAC mandated that cars carry less fuel and banned the use of gasoline, effective the 1965 season. This resulted in a change to methanol, a less volatile fuel. Another response to the crash was the 1965 introduction of the Firestone "RaceSafe" fuel cell, with technology used in military helicopters.

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 5 1 A.J. Foyt 154.672 6 200 146 Running
2 3 2 Rodger Ward 156.406 3 200 0 Running
3 7 18 Lloyd Ruby 153.932 8 200 0 Running
4 21 99 Johnny White 150.893 28 200 0 Running
5 13 88 Johnny Boyd 151.835 18 200 0 Running
6 19 15 Bud Tingelstad 151.210 26 198 0 Flagged
7 12 23 Dick Rathmann 151.860 17 197 0 Flagged
8 27 4 Bob Harkey 151.573 19 197 0 Flagged
9 32 68 Bob Wente 149.869 31 197 0 Flagged
10 20 16 Bobby Grim 151.038 27 196 0 Flagged
11 30 3 Art Malone 151.222 25 194 0 Flagged
12 9 5 Don Branson 152.672 12 187 0 Clutch
13 10 53 Walt Hansgen 152.581 13 176 0 Flagged
14 11 56 Jim Hurtubise 152.542 14 141 0 Oil Pressure
15 8 66 Len Sutton 153.813 9 140 0 Magneto
16 33 62 Bill Cheesbourg 148.711 33 131 0 Engine
17 6 12 Dan Gurney 154.487 7 110 0 Tire wear
18 18 14 Troy Ruttman 151.292 24 99 0 Spun T3
19 23 54 Bob Veith 153.381 10 88 0 Piston
20 25 52 Jack Brabham 152.504 15 77 0 Fuel Tank
21 26 28 Jim McElreath 152.381 16 77 0 Filter system
22 28 77 Bob Mathouser 151.451 21 77 0 Brakes
23 4 98 Parnelli Jones 155.099 4 55 7 Pit fire
24 1 6 Jim Clark 158.828 1 47 14 Suspension
25 2 51 Bobby Marshman 157.857 2 39 33 Oil Plug
26 24 84 Eddie Johnson 152.905 11 6 0 Fuel Pump
27 15 86 Johnny Rutherford 151.400 23 2 0 Crash FS
28 29 95 Chuck Stevenson 150.830 29 2 0 Crash FS
29 14 83 Dave MacDonald 151.464 20 1 0 Crash FS (fatal)
30 17 25 Eddie Sachs 151.439 22 1 0 Crash FS (fatal)
31 16 64 Ronnie Duman 149.744 32 1 0 Crash FS
32 22 9 Bobby Unser 154.865 5 1 0 Crash FS
33 31 26 Norm Hall 150.094 30 1 0 Crash T4


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