Savage started racing 1/4 midgets then motorcycles and karts. He then graduated to NASCAR, Can-Am, Trans-A and finally into Indy cars where he tragically lost his life as a result of injuries sustained in the Indy 500 in 1973.
Born in San Bernardino, California, Savage began Soap Box Derby racing at the age of five. He moved up to racing quarter midget cars then at age twelve to Kart racing. By his late teens he was racing competitively with motorcycles, mainly with off road & trail riding, though he continued to ride speedway until 1969.
Swede's first NASCAR start came in the 1967 Buddy Shuman 250 behind the wheel of the Holman-Moody Ford. Swede qualified well with an 8th place start but in the race the engine blew after 228 of the 250 scheduled laps. Richard Petty won the race.
He got his nickname, Swede, because he was a tough little blonde haired kid and also as a way to differentiate him from his father. Contrary to popular belief he actually liked the nickname.
In 1968 Swede drove a Lola T160 in the USRRC Can Am Series and also raced in NASCAR events. Competing in the 1969 Daytona 500, he was forced out after a wheel fell off on lap 124 and he crashed.
In 1970, Savage and teammate Dan Gurney drove identical factory-sponsored Plymouth Barracudas in the Trans-Am Series. Driving an Indycar, Savage won the 1970 "Phoenix Bobby Ball 150." He competed in the Indianapolis 500 twice, finishing 32nd in the 1972 race after dropping out on lap six with mechanical problems.
The following year, Savage was among the early leaders despite an ill-handling car. He was passed by Al Unser on lap 55, then three laps later he veered inwards across the track and violently smashed head-on into the fourth-turn wall in a hideous crash, covering the track with flames and splitting his car in two and leaving him severely injured
Tragically, one of his crew members who ran out across the pit lane was struck and killed by a fire truck rushing to the crash.
Swede Savage died in hospital from his injuries thirty-three days later. He was interred in the Mt. View Cemetery in his hometown of San Bernardino, California. Married with a six-year-old daughter, his widow Sheryl was expecting their second child at the time of his passing.