ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - While growing up in England, a teenage Donald Davidson developed an interest in auto racing. That fascination brought him to Indianapolis in 1964 and the love affair with the Indianapolis 500 continues to this day.
Davidson, the official historian for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was in Anderson on Monday to mark the start of the racing season at Anderson Speedway on March 25 and the upcoming 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Davidson said he first start memorizing the winners of the Formula One races. He noted that, from 1950 through 1960, the Indianapolis 500 awarded points toward the world championship.
He had to learn about the Indianapolis 500 by reading the motorsports press at the time and became intrigued by the drivers, cars and American way of life.
Davidson moved to America in 1965 without a job, but ended up working for the United States Auto Club.
Without missing a beat during his presentation in the Anderson City Building auditorium, Davidson estimated that between 50 and 60 drivers have competed in both the Indianapolis 500 and Pay Less Little 500.
He said Parnelli Jones finished second in Anderson’s Little 500 in 1960 and Johnny Rutherford started from the pole in 1962 and finished fifth.
Davidson said he remembers when Joe Helpling owned the then-Sun Valley Speedway in the 1960s; the talk every year was that year’s Little 500 would be the last.
“It’s still going strong,” he said. “Back in those years, if a driver came and ran the Little 500 they were going to run the Indianapolis 500.”
Davidson said there are a lot of connections between the Indianapolis 500 and the city of Anderson.
The first Indy 500 winner, Ray Harroun, lived in a trailer park in Anderson and is buried at Anderson Memorial Park Cemetery, the historian noted.
“He never thought of himself as a race car driver,” Davidson said. “He considered himself an engineer and drove to see if the car was working as he planned.”
Davidson said although Harroun was credited with inventing the rear-view mirror, the idea came in 1904 when Harroun noticed a horse-drawn taxi cab with the driver having a mirror on a pole to see what was behind him.
In 1911, a mirror was mounted on Harroun’s Marmon Wasp because he didn’t have a riding mechanic. It was considered a safety hazard by other competitors.
“Ray said the mirror shook so bad because of the bricks that he couldn’t see a thing,” Davidson recounted.
He said Jim McWithey, who raced in both the Little 500 and the Indianapolis 500, operated a used car lot in Anderson when he wasn’t racing.
Davidson said Bob Carey grew up in Anderson and finished fourth in the 1932 Indianapolis 500 and was the national champion that year.
Carey died in the spring of 1933 at a race in California.
Source: The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin, https://bit.ly/2lXQ51T
Information from: The Herald Bulletin, https://www.theheraldbulletin.com
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