- Written by webmin
It’s hard to believe, but Mark Donohue, potentially the greatest American racing driver ever, has been gone for 35 years now. He died shortly after crashing in practice for the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, in a Formula 1 car owned by his mentor, Roger Penske. As Penske star Helio Castroneves tries to become a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner this year, it’s worth remembering Mark Donohue because without his vast success, Penske Racing might have been an also-ran. One of the people who’s followed Donohue’s career is the British guitarist Mark Knopfler.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Knopfler was a founding member of the late-Seventies megagroup Dire Straits. If you enjoy the finger-picked way that “Sultans of Swing” sounds, you can thank Knopfler. He is also clearly something of a car and motorsports fan. A live CD he made with Emmylou Harris includes the track “Speedway to Nazareth,” about a season on the IndyCar series. His latest release, “Get Lucky,” has among its selections “The Car was the One,” a tribute to Donohue.
In an interview with Mark DiIonno, columnist for the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, Knopfler said he was inspired to write the lyrics after reading Donohue’s autobiography, “The Unfair Advantage.” The song describes a hungry road racer with a Cobra, even though Donohue, as a professional, was more closely associated with AMC, Chevrolet and Porsche. His son, David Donohue, is a Knopfler fan and acquaintance. In researching the column, DiIonno visited Saint Theresa’s Cemetery in Summit, New Jersey, were Donohue, who would have been 73 in March, is at eternal rest. A caretaker there told DiIonno that every few months, a guy in a red Lamborghini with a Pennsylvania license plate stops by Donohue’s gravesite for a few moments. Think about that car’s description and imagine who it might be. Thanks to Penske director emeritus of communications Dan Luginbuhl for making us aware of this.