Hemispheres

Meet the (British) Voice of the Indy 500

May 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IND.—A smartly dressed Donald Davidson is taking in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the ninth floor of the Pagoda, the towering structure in the center of the track. He walks along the perimeter of the room and stops at a seat smack-dab in front of the starting line—his seat. The track’s only full-time historian, Davidson is also a well-known raceday radio personality—a post he’s held since the mid-’60s. Which is a li le odd, considering he has a British accent.

“I grew up in Salisbury, in the southern part of England, and was always fascinated with Grand Prix racing,” he says. “I was fascinated by American life, too, and I wanted to check it out.”

In 1964, Davidson flew to Chicago and caught a bus to Indianapolis just in time for the race. Prior to his arrival, he’d been so nervous about securing a good seat that he’d sent numerous letters to the ticket office. So many in fact that he was immediately recognized by the ladies behind the counter—who were also taken by his accent.

“The Beatles had just performed on Ed Sullivan, so everyone was interested in anything British,” he quips. His accent, combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of race facts, endeared him to officials, and he spent his holiday chatting up drivers in racecar garages. The following year, he came back to Indianapolis for good. The rest is history.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the race, and no one is more excited than Davidson. “I can’t wait to see old friends,” he says. “We are inviting every living participant, regardless if they won or lost. It is going to be a big reunion.”
 

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Katie Morell specializes in feature writing, breaking news and corporate communications.