IMS historian shares path to the position

Big Race - Indy

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only motorsports facility with a full-time historian and only one person has ever held the position. His name is Donald Davidson and he’s a walking encyclopedia of Indianapolis 500 knowledge. 

It was 55 years ago when a young Donald Davidson first visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

”It was just like magic. I walked in the door. They gave me a credential and I started meeting the people, which I never expected and that was probably the biggest surprise,” Davidson said. 

The boy from Britain even spoke with Sid Collins on the famed Indy 500 radio broadcast during that 1964 race. He rattled off driver records and impressed the masses. 

“It was just my obsession. I couldn’t get enough of it. I read everything I could,” Davidson said. 

One year later, Davidson left his British home to permanently relocate to Speedway, Indiana. He worked there as a statistician for the United States Auto Club for 31 years gaining knowledge and getting to know all the drivers. He also says he plays what he calls “brain games” to keep sharp. 

“I would try to do the entire field from the bottom up or let me run through and everybody who was 13th or stupid stuff like that,” Davidson said. 

During that time he served six years during the Vietnam War with the Indiana National Guard and his fact-filled radio broadcasts gained popularity. Then in 1998, he officially took on his historian role at IMS. 

“It was like a fantasy and without much aggression, it just seemed that I ended up doing what I had always dreamed about. In some ways I carved my own niche,” Davidson said. 

Now when Davidson walks the grounds at IMS, it’s hard for him to make it anywhere quickly. He’s the biggest star who’s never completed a lap and fans flock for a fair go at frustrating him.

“I don’t know everything. More often than not they want to tell me their story… and I listen because they’re so enthusiastic and I might learn something I don’t know. I’m always looking for something I didn’t know,” Davidson said. 

A man constantly learning in his role as track historian and truly loved as a racing treasure himself. 

Davidson is a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame and the USAC Hall of Fame. He is the longest-serving commentator on the IMS radio broadcast of the race and has been a part every year since 1965 and that doesn’t include the guest spot we heard from 1964. 

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