not forgotten . . .

Don "Big Daddy" MacLaren


Tewksbury, Ma
19.May.1935 - 12.Jan.2011


He was known as "The Flying Scotsman" to thousands of fans, "Big Daddy" to thousands more, while becoming a fearless legend on New England and New York speedways throughout the 1960s and '70s.
Whenever Don MacLaren was in the starting lineup wheeling one of his many cutdowns or supermodifieds on any of the two dozen tracks he raced, his reputation always brought instant anticipation in the grandstands. That well-earned electricity was his trademark: guaranteed excitement.
Mr. MacLaren, 75, died Jan. 12, 2011 at Lowell General Hospital of complications from diabetes.

Elected to the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2002, MacLaren's spectacular career as a driver included over 200 wins between 1951 and 1984. He won a record three consecutive United Race Drivers Club (URDC) Class A season point championships between 1961 and 1963. He won six track championships in those years, three at the former Pines Speedway in Groveland. Ma., and three more at Hudson Speedway, Hudson, N.H.. where his car number was retired in 1989. Undoubtedly one of New England racing's all-time memorable rivalries matched MacLaren, driving the "Blue Streak" No. 3 and later the "Flyin' 5" and his own No. 30, against Ollie Silva, in his black chrome-numbered "Big O" cars. Silva, a quiet, gentlemanly type, had a mystique wearing sunglasses at night for an oversensative ocular problem. He had a white-hat reputation along with cat-like quick racing reactions.

MacLaren was a burly challenger. Famous for his get-out-of-my-way charges through the field, he made his competition work for whatever they got, and sometimes whatever he thought they deserved. He could race wheel-to-wheel, play bumper-tag, or in the case of an on-track disagreement, tag a fellow driver in the nose with a solid right fist. This fear of the "Big Mac" attack came long before the fast-food variety. Like most drivers of the time, Pines track announcer Danny Wilson nicknamed the two crowd favorites "Quick Silva" and "The Flying Scotsman."

MacLaren relished his black-hat role, long before Dale Earnhardt Sr. did likewise on a national level. "I'd win the feature on Saturday night. The fans would boo the heck out of me. I remember some rocks thrown over the fence when I was driving around with the checkered flag," he'd recall. "Those crowds were paying to watch us and as long as they kept coming, I was happy. I laughed all the way to the bank on Monday mornings." The MacLaren-Silva rivalry carried on at other tracks well after The Pines. They packed wooden grandstands with legions of fans for nearly two decades. Both driving other cars, both earning new nicknames from nationally known racing broadcaster and writer Dick Berggren: "Dynamite Ollie" and "Big Daddy Don."

"Big Daddy Don" would go on to win the Canadian-American Classic in 1966 and 1968. He won six straight supermodified feature events at Thompson Speedway in 1971, a track record that still stands at the fast high-banked Connecticut oval. MacLaren qualified and competed in 10 International Classic 200 races at Oswego Speedway, a top supermodified speedway in upstate New York where he won three main events. He won 20 feature races competing with the New England Supermodified Racing Association (NESMRA), won a main event with the International Supermodified Association (ISMA), raced at speedways from Canada to Florida and throughout the Midwest. His last major win came in the 1976 "Icebreaker" at Thompson.

The thrills of victories also came with some nasty spills. He broke his back in one, his arm, shoulder and wrist in others. He suffered scalding burns on his hands and ankles after a blown engine splattered oil and water on him at Oswego. Once his car flipped out of the Pines and landed upside-down on another race car in the pit area. Another time he lived to tell the story after a 130-m.p.h. crash in 1977 at the Syracuse Fairgrounds, his supermodified spiraling several times end-over-end before turning into a series of a half-dozen barrel-roll flips. Rugged, tough and tumble, he'd brush himself off and come back for more. Yet even with all the excitement and entertainment taking place three to five decades ago, MacLaren's lasting magic still became spontaneous combustion whennever he occasionally showed up a racing event.

In 2005, he was the "Distinguished Career" honoree at the annual Pines Speedway Reunion. More than 3,000 people showed up to see him again. And to snap pictures with him. Just last Sept. 11, 2011 MacLaren was a grand marshal of the 45th annual Classic at Lee USA Speedway, having been a winner of the first Classic race. During an on-track introduction, the mention of his name drew vivid cheers, and some boos, from the capacity audience. It was "Big Daddy Don" on the start-finish line again. And with a smirk he cupped his right hand up to his ear, paused ever so briefly to listen, and clearly spoke into a microphone which had been shoved in front of him: "Can't you fans boo louder than that?" It was vintage MacLaren, automatically connecting with the crowd in the sport where he forever will be a legend. He mellowed with age as did his fans. "Big Daddy Don" loved his role and was a champion at it. His fans treasured his action-packed plots and adventurous moments. After all, they always got their money's worth from "Big Daddy."

MacLaren lived in Tewksbury, Ma., much of his life. A Tewksbury High graduate and U.S. Army veteran, he was an expert welder and formed his own company, 5 D's Welding, which he operated in Tewksbury for over 30 years. He was an avid motorcyclist nand restored car enthusiast.

  . . . written by Russ Conway

So sad to hear. I had the pleasure of working the 1982 Classic, I think, with Don. I was working with Mike Brubaker that year and Mike wasn't running Classic, so we helped Don out that weekend. What a "BLAST". A very fun, no stress, successful Classic weekend. The car Don had was an older Linblad Chassis he had Howard Conkey rework to torsion bar suspension. Not sure where he started, but we pitted for a tire and still finished in the top 10, I believe. But the best part was we did good and had fun!!! LOTS of memories from that weekend. R.I.P. Don. Later, L.T.

  . . . Posted on Pinners Jan. 13, 2011 by LT

The first super I worked on was with Don the Nelson Powell #1. I was 14 or 15 sneaking into the pits. Jerry Rich would come over and try to throw me out but Don wouldn't let him. He was a great man. If his cars did not handle he handled his cars. Never did call me by my name I was always "Butch" You gave life a great ride Big Daddy Don, you will be missed. Butch

  . . . Posted on Pinners Jan. 13, 2011 by Larry Lee

May the big guy rest in peace. I loved the way he drove a super. Growing up as a kid, Don was my hero and favorite driver. I spent many Sunday nights at Hudson Speedway watching Don and Ollie Silva battle it out. Thats when racing was more about the driver than the car. God bless big daddy and thanks for the memories.YOU WERE THE REASON I LOVED SUPERMODIFIED RACING.

  . . . Posted on Pinners Jan. 13, 2011 by Mike

Recieved 1/19/2011...

I've lost my best friend. Donnie and I go way back. The first time he came to Vermont, we spent the entire day traveling the back roads. Thats when he told me his dream someday was to live here. Thats all he ever talked about when he came to visit, was moving up this way. I talked with Don about a week ago and he told me about his recent stay in the hospital. He also stated that he needed maybe a months worth of rest, then planned on coming up this summer and spending some time with us. You will always be in our hearts, and as we travel down those back country roads, we will think of how much we miss and love you. You will always be in our prayers.

LOVE ALWAYS:
  from Moe & Tammy Farmer ( Moe was a former supermodified racer as well, and was one of Don's closest friends)

I followed my dad and his racing career more than anyone in the family. I knew his records and career race results better than he did. It was a passion for me to follow his racing career, even before my time. He was a hero to me in many ways as it relates to racing. He was the supermodified king around here back in the day, the day that racing was a way of life 4 days a week.

  . . . from Don Maclaren's son, Doug
Read Don's obituary

1965

1968

1968

Florida, 1972

Oswego, July 1972

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1975

1975

1978

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1983

2005 Pines Speedway Reunion

  Don MacLaren links
  • Obituary
  • Don's NEAR Hall of Fame page, inducted in 2002
  • please links, stories or images so we can all remember Don MacLaren.

  stats
  • 1968 Star Classic winner
  • 20 NESMRA feature wins
  • 1 ISMA feature win
  • 3 Oswego feature wins
  • 21 Oswego top 5's
  • 81st in all-time Oswego points
  • 5th in 1970 Oswego classic
  • 3rd in 1972 Oswego classic
  • 3rd in 1972 Oswego Final point standings

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