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The following photos are a brief (somewhat chronological) pictorial of the racing career of Don Swanson, the Founder of the Don Swanson Racing School and the Arrive and Drive Programs.

Photos were taken by professional motorsports photographer, Brad Bernstein (Brad Bernstein Photography), Scott Cox (Resource Marketing), on site track photographers, personal friends or staff. Bruce Swanson, Don's Brother also took some of the key photos.

All photos are of Don Swanson unless stated otherwise.


Don was one of the first drivers to have his helmet painted with the American Flag theme. Over the years many other driver's helmets have taken on the theme. Michael Andretti, Robby Gordon and many other stars of American racing adopted the patriotic colors. Don was wearing this helmet in the worst crash of his career at the Von's San Diego Grand Prix at Del Mar. He attributes the helmet to saving his life. He always liked the Simpson "Bandit" model helmets because they have a larger frontal area for better breathing and the helmets were also the lightest on the market at the time which reduced G-load weight on neck and shoulder muscles.

Next to a couple of Soap Box Derby cars at the San Diego Automotive Museum. Besides home made Go-karts, it was Soap Box Derby cars that were Don's first experience in racing back when he was in 5th grade.

Doing a photo shoot for his long time sponsor, Kendall Motor Oil with some of his racing hardware.

Bell was one of Don's later sponsors. This is a special Vortex model which had a Reebok Pump system as part of the interior design. The Bell helmets, like the Simpsons Don wore, provided great comfort and safety. You can see the Swedish flag theme (Don's heritage) on the front of the helmet.

Every trip to 'Victory Lane' and the 'Winner's Circle' is special!

Early in his career, he, like so many other open wheel, sports car and NASCAR drivers, competed in drag racing which was the most practical thing to do when you first get your driver's license.


The thing about Drag Racing is that it teaches you a lot about car preparation because in Drag Racing the race is so short. He raced many different types of drag cars but these were some of the memorable ones.

This was the first modified car that he actually owned and drove on a race track. It is a 1967 Ford Fairlane 2 Door Hardtop, 390 Cubic inch engine, 4 speed. He raced it at Connecticut Dragway

Standing next to the car

This was the second car he raced, a 1968 Torino with a 428 Cobra Jet engine with a 3 speed C-6 Automatic transmission.

This is a rearward view of the 1968 Torino.

This was the first, serious, race only car modified strictly for racing. He raced it in 3 different categories - D Stock, E Stock and F Stock. Amalie Oil was the sponsor.

Once the car was classified correctly in "F/Stock", he won races with the car in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire. Sadly, the car was stolen, stripped and heavily damaged.

This is a car Don bought in 1983. It was a 1963 Plymouth Belvedere, 2 door car. It was never a street car. It was originally bought to be built into a race car. When he got it, it was in very bad shape. He restored it and campaigned the car up and down the West Coast. It was run at vintage and normal race weekends.

Paired up with a 1964 Dodge Polara at a vintage event at historic Carlsbad Raceway.

Driver's door of the Blast from the Past.

With its ground shaking big block engine, smoky burnouts and wheelie launches, the car was a crowd favorite.

Another wheels up launch

Another smoky burnout to heat the tires.

Two more photos of wheels up launches.

The car was sponsored by Kendall Motor Oil, Sole Performance and Coors. This was the beginning of a long time relationship with Kendall Motor Oil as one of his valued sponsors. The Kendall Motor Oil logo can be seen on the rear quarter panel.

Here's the 452 Cu. In. "Wedge" engine.

Here's Don (in white) giving instruction to 1976 Olympic Decathlon Champion, Bruce Jenner (in blue shirt and blue jeans). Bruce drove the car at celebrity, charity drag race as a part of the Palm Springs Grand Prix. Bruce won the race.

Here's Bruce Jenner lined up next to a 1969 Dodge Dart Hemi getting ready to launch.

Bruce Jenner had a passenger in the car with him. Actor, Christopher Atkins who starred in "The Blue Lagoon" with Brooke Shields rode in the passenger seat and held on for his life. Here's Bruce, Christopher and Don after the race finishing an interview with ESPN.

Don and Bruce back in the pits after Bruce's race that he won. Bruce signed the photo. Bruce was a sports car driver just like Don both have a love for drag race cars also.

Here's a composite bodied, tube frame SuperComp Drag Car car that Don drove for the owner, Cliff Wynaught. Getting ready to back into the water box.

Pulling forward towards the starting line.

Next to yet another Kendall GT1 Motor Oil sponsored car. This one was a 235" Meyers Dragster.

The car always had wheels up launches on every pass. Carrying the Kendall Motor Oil brand logo on the rear quarter panel.

Kneeling next to the car.

Don in a Crossley Formula Ford at the Skip Barber Racing School in the early 1980s. He drove the car over the three day school.

Getting ready to go out for an on track session.


What made his time at the three day Skip Barber school even more interesting was that 20+ people were supposed to attend the school but only three students showed up. It was the middle of Winter and storms were in the forecast so many people stayed home and many people were sick with seasonal health problems.

The Skip Barber Main office back in Connecticut was going to cancel the school but Don and the other two students stated their case and they decided to go ahead and have the school. It snowed the morning of the first day and it was in the high 30s.

They conducted an extra long classroom session and then they went out for the first on track program when the snow stopped, the sun came out and warmed things up. The other good part about a small school is that the three students basically had personalized instruction and didn't get away with anything.

Turn #2 at Willow Springs International Raceway in the Formula Ford.

Standing next to the car he drove over the three day school at Willow Springs International Raceway.

This was one of the first cars Don drove in SCCA competition, a Sports Renault Sports Racer, racing here at PIR (Portland International Raceway). This class is currently known as a "Spec Ford" here's the car in the high speed Turn #9 that leads out onto the front straight.


Here's the car tracking out from Turn #9 on to the main straight passing a C/Production MG.


A photo of the Main Grandstand area at Riverside International Raceway where Don raced in both Drag Race cars and Road Race cars. This was typical of the size of the crowds that used to frequent SCCA National races back in the day when SCCA actually was something to talk about. Sadly, now there are more drivers than fans in their series. Don raced a C/Sports Racer at the track several times.

Talking with two fellow competitors in his race group prior to going out on the track at Riverside International Raceway.

One of the early cars that he drove, a March Formula Atlantic race car with a closed wheel body raced as a CSR - C/Sports Racer. Here he is on the pole at an SCCA National Race talking with Rob Shanahan who was in Don's race group. Rob, an extremely talented and gifted mechanic became Don's Crew Chief for his IMSA cars. One of Don's first major sponsor's logo, NAPA, can be seen on the car. One of his crew members, Mike Berry is getting ready to fire up the car with an external battery cart.

Gathering some thoughts before a race at the Riverside International Raceway.

The CSR at speed in the fast and famous Turn #9 at the historic Riverside Raceway in Riverside, CA back in 1987. 64 cars started the last race there in Group 7. He qualified 11th on the grid and finished 6th. It was one of the last races at the track.

The CSR coming up through the famous Riverside esses leading into the equally famous Turn #6. It was a foggy, damp day at the track making the high speed Turn #9 at the other end of the track even more interesting. The Grandstands in the elevated Turn #6 was a great place to view the entire track from.

Here's the car at speed at Willow Springs Raceway, the 2.2 mile road course where Don set the track record for the class in 1988.

After an SCCA National race that he won.

In the race paddock for a late day photo. Don's sponsors on this car were NAPA, Kendall Motor Oil, Hoosier Tires and Recycler Classified.

Next to the CSR with some of his winnings from driving the car. Overall, he won 4 races, had two 2nd place finishes and a 3rd in 10 races. In 1988 he won the season Championship in the Class.


After racing in SCCA Regionals and numerous National races and after earning an SCCA Pro License, an IMSA Pro License and an FIA Grade card, Don decided to step up to Professional racing. It was the Barber Saab Pro Series where he decided to make the first step.

Guy Beaucage was Don's Crew Chief and helped get him fitted to the car and helped him to get the car sorted out for testing.

Here he is getting ready for test session number 3. Unfortunately, as much as he loved driving in a Formula car, the reality was that he discovered he was simply too tall and his legs were too long to comfortably race in single cockpit cars. So a career in sports car was born.

This is a car that Don looked at to buy, a Mazda RX7, IMSA GTU car.

Here he is at Moroso Motorsports Park near Palm Beach, Florida testing the car. He didn't end up buying this one.

Standing next to the car at the end of the test sessions.

Don next to his first IMSA GTU race car, a Mazda RX7. He was sponsored by Panasonic, Coors Beer, Kendall Motor Oil and Firestone. This was an Ex-Factory Mazda race car built by Roger Mandeville, who built many of the Championship winning cars for Mazda in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s

Don coming out of the famous hairpin turn at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, 1990. He had been trying to get by a higher HP GTO car for a few laps and made this pass entering/exiting the hairpin turn. Now, the question is can he hold the faster car off all the way down the Shoreline Drive Straight-a-way?

Yes, here is another photo turning into turn #1 showing the results of how proper entrance and exiting of a corner can propel you down a straight with great results.

Always a top priority of the Don Swanson Racing Team is making sure that their equipment is eye catching and memorable which maximizes their sponsor's image. Here is the Panasonic Car Audio, Coors, Kendall Motor Oil, Firestone sponsored Mazda RX7 attracting a crowd at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Race Car Concourse. It's a car show that is held on the Wednesday prior to the race on the Promenade a few blocks from the racing circuit.

Here's Don signing autographs for some fans who stopped by. All race cars competing in the actual Long Beach race are eligible to compete in the car show. Don's team won the Grand Prize given to the car/driver/team with the best overall presentation and nicest looking car.

Here's the 5th place finishing Mazda RX7 on display just outside of our sponsor, Coors Beer's hospitality area.

Having Coors for a sponsor had it's extra perks. Here's Don in front of the Coors sponsored RX7 with the Coors Good Will girls that were a part of all of the Coors brand activities for the weekend. How could any driver do poorly with a support system like this?

Coors Beer promotional photo after the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Here's Don with his SCCA Championship Winning Ceremonial Flag and Wall Plaque.

Don with Shelley Peterson, Miss Von's Grand Prix of San Diego at Del Mar in front of the Pace Cars that Don drove to give rides on "Media Day" at the race.

This is Don's next race car that he owned and drove. It was a purpose built, space frame, MX6 body style GTU car. It was another Mazda EX-Factory Carbon Fiber, Kevlar and Monocoque Aluminum race car built by Team Highball in South Carolina and was originally campaigned by IMSA Champion, Amos Johnson.

This is Don in the car at the Von's Grand Prix of San Diego at Del Mar. That's current NASCAR regular, Robby Gordon in the red Mustang Whistler car. Don's sponsors for this car were GTE Mobilnet, Motorola, Coors Beer, Kendall Motor Oil and Yokohama Tires.

This was the car in it's original #71livery. It is one of the most successful car numbers of the Daytona 24 Hour race

Sadly, bad things happen to good race cars and this is the result of an accident that was caused by a fellow racer at the November 1990 Del Mar Grand Prix in the first ever on track session with the newly purchased car. Don had only been on the track for 10 minutes or so in practice.

The driver tried to re-take the racing line on a timed passing maneuver and chopped him at the worst possible place on the track, putting him violently into the opening of a wall.

The accident sent three drivers to the hospital in three different ambulances. It took 45 minutes to get Don out of (what was left of) the car. Pete Halsmer, Chuck Kendall (Tommy and Bart's Dad) and Don were all involved in the accident and all ended up at Scripps in La Jolla, Pete got released fairly soon, Don spent several hours there and Chuck was admitted for a day or two.

Don raced two weeks later in another car despite the injuries sustained in the accident.

Here's a photo of the "crime scene". The car hit the opening of the wall at 67 Gs knocking the windshield out of the car with so much force, it landed in the parking lot on the other side of the plywood perimeter fence 40' away. The skid marks can be seen in the photo.

The next time the car was raced after major rebuilding was the following April. This photo was taken leading into the last corner before the famous hairpin at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The famous hairpin turn at the Toyota Grand prix of Long Beach. That's Mazda factory driver, Pete Halsmer behind in the white and blue Mazda RX7 GTO car.

This is a photo of the car at the Toyota Grand prix of Long Beach race care concourse that Don's team won for the second year in a row.

In the Mazda MX6 at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach going into turn #3. Coincidentally, that's the red Whistler Mustang of Robby Gordon in the photo behind Don again as well as Dorsey Schroeder in the other Whistler Mustang.

A pit stop for some mechanical issues took the race out of contention for the win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was discovered after the race that an alternator wire was not attached. More times than not, it's usually a $5 part that prevents a car from finishing a race.

Don's cars attracted media coverage through race weekends.

Don dropping into the famous "Cork Screw" section of turns at the Laguna Seca Raceway. The initial left/right turn leading into the drop, requires looking at trees on the far hillside to line yourself properly for the 160' down hill section because the road drops down so drastically you cannot see the pavement. If you are not lined up properly, you will miss (or run over) the right track side apex curbing.

Don with one of Mazda's most famous pioneers. Takaharu Kobayakawa was the force behind Mazda's rotary engine racing success story. The car in the background was the first Mazda rotory powered car that won the 24 Hours of LeMans. He was a respected Mazda racing driver and he was equally respectful of the Mazda R & D gurus.

One of Don's major sponsors was Coors Beer so he wanted to have a show piece to use for trade shows. He found and bought a 1985 Coors Light Silver Bullet Indy Car and restored it. Geoff Brabham drove this car for Galles racing in the 1985 PPG Indy Car World Series. It was the first car to use a Judd engine. Geoff told Don that the ground effect tunnels under the car were so effective creating down force that at 160 MPH the car would have the ability to stick to a ceiling.


Here's the car sitting in the main entrance lobby at the San Diego Auto Museum. Don loaned the car to the museum for a presentation they were doing for the Indy 500.

Here's the car sitting in the main entrance lobby at the San Diego Auto Museum from a different angle.

With Shelley Peterson, Miss Von's Grand Prix of Del Mar at a promotional event for the race. She's wearing Don's driving suit. He never washed it again. . .

Here's a 1983 March Indy Car that Don bought to compete in the American Indy Car Series with. It was previously owned by A.J. Foyt and raced in the Indy Car World Series by George Snyder. The car had the #1 on the side because George was the USAC Sprint Car Champion from the previous year and because the Indy 500 is sanctioned by USAC he earned the #1 number.

A closer look of the 1983 March Indy Car and the Kendall Motor Oil photo shoot. Don never raced the car in the American Indy Car Series for 2 reasons. . .1. He was too tall to fit properly in the car and 2. Someone made an offer to buy it that could not be refused.

Don participating at a celebrity Mini Grand Prix to benefit the Arthitis Foundation

Participating at the celebrity Mini Grand Prix to benefit the Arthritis Foundation

Doing an interview with Fox TV at the Arthritis Foundation Charity Banquet.

Being honored at the Arthritis Foundation Banquet by Fox TV for all the time and support he provided for the foundation. Homer and Bart Simpson were a part of the festivities.

Participating with the NISSAN factory IMSA GTP team in a Pit Stop Challenge event during the Von's Grand Prix of Del Mar.

Discussing strategy with Communications Director, Brian Wagner and two other crew members.

Don getting ready to get into the car.

Don and 4 time IMSA GTP Champion, Geoff Brabham congratulate each other for the win.

Interviewed by long time Long Beach Grand Prix race announcer, Terry Clanton after the first place finish.

The winning team with the spoils of victory, a check for $1000 that was donated to charity.

A Big Thank you to NISSAN's Brian Wagner and also to Adam Saal, Communications Director for IMSA for the opportunity to participate with such a famous, successful racing team.

Don with Crew Chief Rob Shanahan standing next to a 1983 Turbo Alfa Romeo Formula One car that Rob asked Don to drive but he was too tall so he drove a Porsche 908 in the race instead


Don with motorsports Artist and Formula One aficionado, John Uerkvitz at the Grand Prix of Palm Springs. Don drove a Ferrari 512 BBLM and a Porsche 908 for two different owners at the event.

Suiting up for battle with his Bell sponsored, Swedish Flag design Vortex Helmet. You can also see some of Don's sponsors on his suit, Mazda, Yokohama and Kendall Motor Oil.

Crew Chief Rob Shanahan strapping Don into a Porsche 908 that he put on the Pole at the annual Porsche/Alfa Challenge race.

The car's owner (in red suit) and Crew Chief Rob Shanahan with last minute communication

Don driving the Porsche 908 at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

Here's Don in the Porsche 908 following The Alfa Romeo Formula One car driven by his friend, Jeff Klein at the Porsche-Alfa Challenge race. They finished 1-2. Jeff is a famous Sports Car driver that co-drove at the 24 Hours of Lemans in the "Silk Cut" Jaguar Prototype. He also dove other IMSA GTP cars during his career.

Don driving the Porsche 908 at a second racing event, the Palm Springs Grand Prix. The Stars and Stripes car following Don is the old March CSR (with it's new owner driving it) that he drove several years earlier in different livery.

Don driving the Porsche 908 at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

Don driving a Ferrari 512 BBLM at the Palm Springs Grand Prix (6 photos). This was a LeMans car from the early 70s and was capable of 200+ MPH on the Mulsanne Straight.

The Ferrari 512 BBLM at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

The Ferrari 512 BBLM at speed at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

The Ferrari 512 BBLM ahead of the pack at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

The Ferrari 512 BBLM cornering at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

The end of the race, just before dark, the Ferrari 512 BBLM at the Palm Springs Grand Prix

This is an ACT (American Canada Tour) car that Don drove for Ronnie Benjamin, who ran oval track race cars through the Northeast. These cars were basically NASCAR Busch Series cars back in the 1990s

Here is the same car that Don drove in different livery.


Co-Driving a friend's SCCA Touring Class "A" race car at the annual Thanksgiving Day race at Willow Springs Intl. Raceway

Don driving a Methanol fueled Speedway Midget.

Here's a side view during the race on the way to a 1st place finish.

This is a 1983 Brabham BT52B Formula 1 car that Don bought in December of 1994 in the South of France. Nelson Piquet and Recardo Petrase were team mates in 1983 and the Brabham team had 6 of these cars built. They were designed by South African, Gordon Murray who at the time, was the top designer and visionary in F-1. These BT52Bs were the most powerful Formula 1 cars ever built to this day. They squeezed 1100 HP out of a Turbo BMW four cylinder power plant. Sadly, the car got tied up in the corrupt French court system and Don lost all the money he paid for the car plus the fees to the equally corrupt legal system in France. Last reported, the car is still sitting in a cargo container in a warehouse in Marseille but by now is completely destroyed. All of the Magnesium parts have disintegrated and everything else not coated in Cosmoline would be worthless. The body parts would be the only thing left at this point. It's easy to see why the cars were referred to as a "lawn dart".

The beautiful lines of the 1983 Brabham BT52B. There was two different color schemes that Brabham used - one was White over Blue and the other was Blue over White.

Another angle of the 1983 Brabham BT52B Formula 1 car that Don bought in December of 1994 in Marseille, France. Nelson Piquet and Recardo Petrase were team mates. Nelson Piquet won the F-1 Championship in 1983 driving these cars. The car would be worth around $200,000 today.

Here's a signed photo of the car racing at Brands Hatch in England in 1983.

This is a 1984 Johnny Player Special (JPS) Lotus Formula 1 car that Don owned for about a week but sold it to someone that had a Renault Twin Turbo F-1 engine and no car to put it in.

This is the 1984 Johnny Player Special (JPS) Lotus Formula 1 car from another angle. The car was driven by Elio DeAngeles and his team mate was Nigel Mansel in a second car. They finished 3rd and 10th in the Championship.

This was a 1986 Lola Indy Car that Don used for promotions for various sponsors. Here's Don and the car at the San Diego Auto Museum with Kendall Motor Oil branding on the car.

Here's Don sitting in the car at the DSR race shop getting ready to load it for a promotional event for France Telecom. The France Telecom logo can be seen on the side of the car. The MX6 IMSA GTU car can be seen behind it.

Here's a photo taken while picking the car up after it's time at the San Diego Auto Museum.

Don in a CRG 125 Shifter Kart


Don racing in a 4 hour karting endurance race

Ty Tipton (kart #9) and Don (kart #6) after a qualifying session

The Don Swanson Racing Racing team and the winning kart in the 4 hour endurance race. From left to right - Don, Stephanie Sullivan, Jim Rice, Ty Tipton (in kart), Spencer Tipton (Ty's son) , Doug Cummings and Doug's Son, CJ


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