Racing Legends Spotlight: Swede Savage
David Earl “Swede” Savage, Jr. (August 26, 1946 – July 2, 1973) was an American race car driver. In January 1967, Savage made a point of showing up at a Ford Motor Company test session at Riverside International Raceway attended by, among others, racing legend Dan Gurney. Also in attendance was a Ford public relations executive named Monte Roberts, who watched Savage calmly wheelie a motorcycle for the better part of a mile and, struck by Savage’s “racy” name and obvious talent, encouraged Ford officials to take Savage under their wing. After a partial season driving NASCAR stock cars in the South for the Ford factory-backed racing team Holman-Moody, Savage received a telephone call from Gurney inviting him back to Southern California to try his hand at sports car racing.
Savage debuted in the old SCCA United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) series in April 1968, driving a Lola T70 Mk III (the car campaigned by Gurney in the 1967 Can-Am racing series; a condition of employment Gurney imposed on the young driver was that he rebuild and prepare the car for competition with very little assistance from other AAR staff.) He finished fifth at Riverside in his one appearance in the car. In 1968 and 1969, he also raced in NASCAR events. Competing in the 1969 Daytona 500, he crashed after a wheel fell off on lap 124. With AAR’s racing program cut back due to budget troubles, Savage resumed semi-pro motorcycle racing in the Southern California area. In 1970, Savage and Gurney drove identical factory-sponsored Plymouth Barracudas in the Trans-Am Series. Early in the season, Chrysler cut back support for the AAR effort and Gurney stepped out of the car to let Savage drive the entire season.
Driving an Eagle-Ford IndyCar, Savage won the “Bobby Ball 150” at Phoenix International Raceway in October 1970. This would be the last race he drove for All-American Racers, and his sole professional auto racing victory. In March 1971, Savage entered the Questor Grand Prix at Ontario Motor Speedway, driving an Eagle-Plymouth Formula 5000 car. The throttle stuck wide open, and Savage suffered near-fatal head injuries in the ensuing crash. He returned to driving at the beginning of the 1972 season.
He competed in the Indianapolis 500 twice. In the 1972 Indianapolis 500, he finished 32nd after dropping out on lap six with mechanical problems.