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Indy 500 historian, USAC legend highlight DARF car show

Blessed with astonishing memory recall, noted historian Donald Davidson has a one-track mind when it comes to auto racing. That’s the power of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Davidson felt the pull from the famous 2.5-mile speedway growing up in England. And though he never raced in the Indianapolis 500, his drive to get there is no less impressive than the list of drivers and their accomplishments he can recited from memory.

Davidson’s first Indianapolis 500 was in 1964, the culmination of saving for years to make the trip. He came back in 1965 determined to stay for good.

“I was already hooked, that’s why I came. It was unbelievable,” said Davidson, who along with USAC sprint car legend Tom Bigelow will be the featured guests at the Dayton Auto Racing Fan club’s car show at Lang’s Chevrolet at 1 p.m. today. “I couldn’t describe it in a sentence or two because it was a mission for me. I tell people it was not a casual visit. It was a mission to get here.”

Mission accomplished. Davidson — after delighting Indy 500 drivers, officials and fans among others with his ability to recite vast trivia on his first visit — was a guest on the radio broadcast in 1964. He was invited back in 1965 and has been part of the IMS Radio Network broadcast every year since. USAC hired Davidson as its record keeper a week after the 1965 Indy 500. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Davidson’s encyclopedia of Indy 500 knowledge will be on display Saturday along with a variety of asphalt and dirt cars, dragsters and displays. He’ll also gladly sign autographs. “Of course, if anybody wants one,” he said almost surprised someone might make that request.

One thing people don’t do is try to stump him.

“Oh, not anymore,” Davidson said. “People have questions they want the answer to or do I remember this or do I remember that. I’m anticipating when they come over on Saturday they may have stuff to show me. That’s quite typical that happens. I love it.”

Davidson said he was looking through some old scrapbooks from the 1950s and 1960s recently and came across clippings from Dayton newspapers.

“Dayton, as I was to learn over the years, had a huge racing following there with newspapers, racing columns. Most towns didn’t even mention racing unless somebody got killed,” Davidson said.

“In the 1950s and 1960s there were several people that would come over from Dayton to write about qualifications and practice. What they had to go through to get over here because there was no freeway. It was a drive and a half to get here. They probably wore a suit and a hat, probably had to write the story on a typewriter, then turn around and go back. I thought the event is not even in their state let alone their town.”

And for Donaldson, not even in his own country.

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