Donald Davidson Retiring as IMS Historian

Indianapolis, IN — With nearly six decades of encyclopedic knowledge of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, Donald Davidson will retire Dec. 31 from his role as IMS historian.

Photo: IMS Museum

“No one has more knowledge or more appreciation of the heritage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than Donald Davidson,” said current IMS owner Roger Penske. “Donald will always have a place at the Speedway, and we wish him all the best in this next chapter of his life.”

Davidson’s relationship with IMS began in May 1964 when he came to the Indianapolis 500 from his native England to fulfill a dream that started during his teenage years.

Since then, Davidson has become known and respected around the globe for his preservation and promotion of the history of IMS and the Indianapolis 500.

“I have been blessed with a truly amazing career which has been jam-packed with hundreds upon hundreds of personally rewarding experiences, but the years have flown by at an alarming rate and never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that this magical ride would last as long as it has,” Davidson said. “Over the last three or four years, I have begun contemplating other areas of my life for which I wish I had been able to spend more time, and this has only been further underscored with daily reminders during the challenging last few months of having to work from home.

Davidson is believed to be the only person in the world to hold a full-time historian role for a motorsports racetrack.

During his first IMS visit in May 1964, Davidson dazzled members of the racing community and IMS officials, including track owner Tony Hulman, with his ability to recite year-by-year accounts of participants’ careers. Davidson also was first introduced to international audiences with a brief appearance that year on the IMS Radio Network.

Befriended by legendary IMS Radio Network anchor Sid Collins, Davidson returned to the United States permanently in 1965. He joined the Radio Network and was hired by the United States Auto Club (USAC) as a statistician, a job he fulfilled with great pride and detail for nearly 32 years.

Davidson then briefly joined TelX (now IMS Productions) as a historical archivist in 1997 before moving to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation as historian in January 1998.

He has served in many on- and off-air roles for the IMS Radio Network broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 since 1965, and he also was part of the broadcast team for selected Brickyard 400 races and other open-wheel events. From 1971-2020, Davidson was the host of the popular call-in radio show “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on Indianapolis radio station 1070 AM.

Davidson’s writing credits include scores of historical articles and columns for various print and digital outlets, Indianapolis 500 Yearbooks in 1974 and 1975, and co-authoring (with Rick Shaffer) the acclaimed “Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500,” published in 2006 and updated in 2013.

Read more about Davidson’s career and share tributes on social media with the hashtag #DonaldDavidson.