PHOTOS AND ARTICLES FROM THE COLLECTION OF
DON "THREE WHEEL" HECKMAN
TO SEE SOME OF HIS NEWSPAPER ARTICLES, CLICK HERE.
Fresh out of high school, Don begins his racing career in a flat head Anglia.
(Photo by Wally) Feb. 11, 1967
By June of that year, his car looked a little rougher.
(Photo by Wally) June 3, 1967
Back in 1968 looking good with some new body work.
Here was Don's first midget ride. This was taken on the infield dirt track at Hialeah.
Don was the man to beat when he strapped into the "Black Bandit", #95. The trophy girl is Maggie Gavaletz.
(photo by Ed Oberlies) June 26, 1971
Don celebrates another win with his car owner, Doug Ingram, and with Cheryl Smith. Her brother Gary was the only fatality at the track.
Jim Adams loops the 89 as Don reaches for the brake.
No roll cage and no fire suit make this a scary looking spin.
Don and C.W. Davis, who was a successful car owner for Jim Adams and Frank Suits.
Speaking as a race fan, I can tell you this was one of the most scary accidents I've ever seen. Don went barrel-rolling down the back straight, into the turn 3 wall, then up and over the fence. He landed on a truck in the pits. Yeah, he was in tough shape when the rescue people got to him, so Don took an emergency trip to the hospital. Thankfully he was back at the track later that night with no serious injuries,
Something didn't go quite to plan.
Don was preparing to strap into one of Arnold Field's potent TQ's.
It didn't take long before Don's appetite for open-wheel racing carried him away from Florida City. Here he is shown strapping into Ralph Ross's sprinter at Palm Beach.
Don spent lots of time on the road since his Miami home was far from just about every open-wheel race. Here he was at Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa. From left to right: his dad Al Heckman, Florida racing historian and journalist Dave Westerman, Don in the gray shirt, and Rob Bean Sr.
Don was a very skilled fabricator, so he paired his welding and construction abilities with his passion for racing, and became a valuable resource to many racers. He was the go-to guy for repairs, construction and tuning. Here he is shown tinkering on Jerry Rowley's midget. Note the snazzy matching paintjob on the van.
Much of his driving career found Don around the Tampa area, a true hot spot for sprints, but he also drove sprints and super modifieds across the region.
Eventually Don hung up his helmet and concentrated on building a first class sprint car team. He had several drivers over the years including Wayne Reutimann and Doug Heveron, Together they won several TBARA championships as they barn-stormed across Florida.
He also formed Heckman Motorsports. In his business, Don became a shock and chassis guru, a parts dealer, and a car builder too. The business supported winning racers across the country.
The Little 500 at Anderson Speedway had long captured Don's love and attention. It is a 500 lap race, (a very unusual distance for sprints) and is a crown jewel of the sport. His team ran it several times, and Heckman Motorsports supported lots of front-running cars.
In 2008, it was time to step away from the team ownership role. Doug Heveron was ready to retire as a driver too, so they made one last trip to the Little 500. As you can see in the picture, they set fast time and started from the pole position!
Doug was running well, but got tangled into a wreck that happened in front of him after 100 laps or so. And that is how two racing careers wrapped up!
Of course his love for the sport remained strong, and he kept busy with Heckman Motorsports. Many top teams relied on his chassis set-up assistance, especially his shock tuning ability.
He was a mentor for me in my sprint car years, and I'll always be thankful for his help and friendship.
Like the Little 500, Don also loved the Oswego Classic for supermodifieds. Here we were in 2016, watching the Labor Day weekend race. It was fun: he would point out which cars ran his shocks and set-up!
Don was well known and much loved in racing. He had about a million friends in the sport; shown here with Doug and Sherry Heveron around 2016.
He lost a long battle with lung cancer in the fall of 2020. That dropped the checkered flag on a long life filled with family, friends and racing. RIP racer!
Smooch time! Don plants a big one on Miss Maggie.