Your Town Friday: Speedway’s Donald Davidson keeps Indy 500’s history in his head

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Did you know the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was around before the town of Speedway?

IMS was built on the outskirts of Indianapolis in 1909. The first race was in 1911. A year later, plans were drafted for Speedway City, a "horseless" place for people to drive cars and create parts for new modes of transportation.

The land was incorporated as the Town of Speedway in 1926 with 507 people. Today, the population is a little more than double that number.

For one man, Speedway history is on his mind every day.

From the first person to take the checkered, to the latest winner, and everything that's happened in between, it's all stored in Donald Davidson's head.

But it's not a photographic memory! So what is it?

Let's start with how a born and bred Brit ended up on this side of the pond.

"The British embrace motorsports," said Davidson. "And so I always knew about it. In getting deeper into it, I read about this thing called the Indianapolis 500 and I thought, what on earth is that?"

He started ordering racing books from America. And that's when he first noticed something.

"I found that I could memorize results and retain them."

At age 14, he decided it was "Indy 500 or Bust!"

"So I saved up the money. It took a while!"

That was in 1964.

It went so well that he took a big risk.

"I came back the next year with a green card and a one way ticket!"

He was a guest on the IMS Radio Network and then a  few days after the race, he joined USAC as chief historian. He stayed there for 31 years until the Hulman George family gave him an office at IMS in 1998.

"I started with the 500 winners."

He memorized first place, then second, then third, and on down.

"You had to dig around to find them, it wasn’t like now, we didn’t have computers where we just go and there it is all for you. I had to work to get that stuff! But I just found I could build on it and retain it. I’ve been told it’s Selective Retentive Easy Access."

And that gift brings real joy to people who call him, which happens all day long.

"From restoring cars or just a real fan that says, you know, I was at the 1968 race and something happened, am I mistaken? Did that really happen? And then another thing, too, that can be very rewarding is when somebody thinks they have a relative that drove in the race or was a riding mechanic."

He's never lived far from the Speedway since he bought that one-way ticket.

"It became home almost immediately. I’ve lived in the same house since 1977 and since I was first employed in 1965, I’ve made my living in Speedway."

And he's had a life filled with unforgettable moments.

"Some people never get a 'pinch me' moment in their life that’s really worth anything and I’ve had hundreds and hundreds. And I don’t take that for granted.”