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"Mad" Marion MacDonald
Born: August 24, 1918   -   Home: Florida Born
 

"Mad" Marion MacDonald in 1997 at Living Legends of Auto Racing event in Daytona BeachMarion McDonald was raised in a home built in 1887 at McDonaldThe original MacDonald Station homestead from 1887 Station, Florida and learned to drive in the family orange groves. "One day I hit the railroad tracks and my car jumped a four-foot gate on the other side. After that I never opened that gate again, " he said.

In 1938 Mac went to work at Bill France's gas station in Daytona Beach, and that same year he entered the time trials for the beach-road race. In a 74-mph dash, he posted a time two mph faster than France. At age 21 he entered the race driving his personal car, a 1937 yellow Ford Phaeton (No. 14). Mac was tied into the car with a rope and carried an open knife taped to the dash to free himself in an emergency.

During one pit stop Mac grabbed a hamburger from one of his pit crew. The fans were amused to see Mac racing into the North Turn and down A1A eating a hamburger. One fan remarked, "Look at that madman eating lunch while driving in a race," and Marion McDonald became "Mad" Marion McDonald. (ed. Some say the title actually came from his flying antics....)

As he sped down the beach on a later lap, Mac came up on a car stalled across the North Turn. The driver was out of the car and running across the track toward safety. To avoid hitting him, Mac took the high side, climbed the dunes on two wheels, and drove on. He discovered that taking the turn on two wheels improved his speed and began entering the turns more often than not on two wheels. His daredevil style delighted the fans, but Mac describes it as "just Sunday afternoon driving."

Mad Marion raced the beach course in 1938 and 1939. He got married in 1940 and at the request ofMacDonald's 1935 Ford White Ghost his bride tried to settle down. But the roar of the engines was too strong, and without his wife's knowledge, Mac raced the Florida short tracks in a 1935 Ford nicknamed the White Ghost. McDonald's last race was in Casselberry in 1946, and he still has vivid memories of the crash that ended his racing career. "A car in front of me hit a guardrail, and the rail came through my windshield and out the back window. It just kept coming and coming." Mac escaped without serious injury, but even today he flashes back to that guardrail. After the Casselberry race, Mad Marion retired from racing and became a gentleman farmer.The guardrail that ended the racing


Mac's racing skills were unexpectedly revived in 1973. On February 27 he was driving on Florida State Road 15 when a station wagon with two women and two small boys overturned in a ditch. A three-year-old boy was pinned under the crankcase with four inches of clearance. Mac tried to dig under the boy but failed; he tried to flag help, but again failed. He drove his truck through the mud and up the steep canal bank, lowered the power lift tail gate, backed under the car, raised the front, and pulled the child to safety. He received a commendation from the Florida Highway Patrol for his heroic action.

Marion McDonald lives with his wife, Mary, in Port Orange, Florida and is a member of the Living Legends of Auto Racing.


MacDonald beach race silhouette. First convertible to the left

Beach racing gone but not forgotten  

By Joe Jennings - Motorsport.com

Racing on the sand at Daytona Beach ended in 1958, but it has not been forgotten. During Speedweeks each year, old-time racers and supporters flock to the beach with their restored cars and their memories to relive the past.

Some 80 old cars appeared on the beach for the Living Legends of Racing parade. The cars and drivers took a leisurely drive on the hard-baked sand to the delight of fans, tourists and friends of the competitors.

A number of former racers including Russ Truelove, "Mad" Marion MacDonald, Johnny Allen, Jim Vandiver, Marvin Panch, Junie Donlavey, Jim Bray and others were on hand to reminisce about the good old days.

In a bus tour sponsored by NASCAR, the media received an in-depth walk-through on the history of racing in Daytona Beach. The buses drove by the original home of Bill France, his gas station, the hotel where France and others met to form NASCAR, and other notable spots. The caravan also stopped at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse where several restored cars were on display and old-time drivers had congregated.

Buzz McKim, NASCAR's resident historian, led the tour and accompanied by many of the legends, the tour was very informative.

NASCAR raced on the beach from 1936 to 1958. From 1936 to 1947, racing took place on a 3.2-mile course that included the picturesque State Highway A1A and the beach itself. In 1948, the course was moved farther south and it was a more rigorous 4.1 miles in length. The turns at each end of the courses were tight and the sand was often quite rugged.

Said Allen, 72, "It was hard to see because of the sand and salt that was flying through the air. The closer you were to the water the better off you were. The best thing you could was to be your wheels on the edge of the water (ocean) by just a hair. Most of the time you had to lean your head out the window to see where you were going."

Allen also raced in the first Daytona 500, starting last without benefit of practice time, he successfully climbed to an 11th place finish.

Truelove, 83, is best remembered as a Mercury driver and he said his cars came off the showroom floor. "It was very exciting to race on the beach," he said. Seagulls were everywhere but they scattered once the races started. The late Tim Flock (another legend) drove convertibles on the beach and he told Truelove the seagulls often dropped their calling cards on the drivers.

1961 Daytona 500 winner Marvin Panch also raced on the beach three times. He observed, "Our biggest problem is that you couldn't see where you were going. We cut holes in our windshields as the sand pitted them quickly." He also indicated the corners were "like a plowed field."

While Panch made the successful transition to the 2.5-mile oval, he said a greater concentration level was needed on the banked track as the wind moved the cars around so much. "It was like flying an airplane; you had to keep it smooth," he said.

MacDonald worked in a gas station owned by Bill France and as a teenager he raced on the beach twice in the late 1930s. "It was fun in those days," MacDonald, now 88, said. "We weren't racing then; we were just having fun. I raced close to home and we often had to steal gasoline to get home after a race."

Everyone involved had a great time talking with the veteran drivers and looking at their restored cars. A year from now, the stories should be even better, which makes one and all look forward to the 2008 reunion. Thanks to Motorsport.com


MacDonald beach race silhouette. First convertible to the left. Car 21 is Bill France.
Daytona Beach's North Turn in the 1939

SEE THIS! Mad Marion MacDonald Program Page

Editor's Note: This is one of those unusual Legends of Nascar listings because Marion MacDonald only entered one NASCAR race, but that still qualifies him! 'Mad' Marion is a colorful figure around the Daytona Legend racing clubs. Personally one of my favorites because he tells great stories about the early days with Fireball Roberts.
This website page is dedicated to him on as a birthday present on August 24, 2007.


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