James Davison is a name that many Indy die-hards know, but aren’t quite sure why.
Davison’s name has been in the news recently as it was announced that he will replace Sebastien Bourdais following his horrific crash on the first day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
Several names were thrown around by fans as drivers who would make a good replacement, even Dario Franchitti gave his opinion after the announcement was made.
So, who exactly is James Davison?
He comes from a racing family. His father Jon raced in Formula 5000 (series that same names such as Mario Andretti, and Bobby Unser have appeared in). His cousins Alex and Will are both V 8 supercar drivers. His grandfather Lex was wildly successful racing in Australia, winning eight championships before passing away due to injuries sustained in an accident during practice in 1965.
Davison got his racing start back in 2004 racing in the Victoria Formula Ford series in his native Australia.
In 2007, Davison worked his way to the Star Mazda Championship, the second tier in the Mazda Road to Indy series. This is the same series that names such as Conor Daly, Graham Rahal, Gabby Chavez came from. It’s now known as the Pro Mazda Series.
He finished second in 2007, with a win in Canada and a total of four podium finishes for Velocity Motorsports.
Following this successful run, Davison made the jump to Indy Lights with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He struggled for most of his first season in Indy Lights but picked up a win at Mid-Ohio, and a second place finish the following race in Kentucky. He only managed three other Top-10 finishes in the 2008 Indy Lights season. He did earn a most improved driver award that year as he finished 9th in points and looked significantly better towards the end of the 2008 season.
In 2009, he joined with Vision Racing for his second, and more successful season in Indy Lights. He only failed to complete a Top-10 finish in one race, while achieving four podiums, another Mid-Ohio win, and eight Top-5 finishes. He finished the season second in points to champion and current IndyCar regular JR Hildebrand.
Davison spent the next three years in Sports Cars. He only completed two of the five races he competed in during this span for Starworks Motorsport, Michael Shank Racing, and Michael Baughman Racing.
He’s been in an IndyCar only a handful of times since leaving Indy Lights in 2009. He finished 15th and 18th in Mid-Ohio and Sonoma for Dale Coyne Racing.
He competed in his first Indianapolis 500 in 2014 for KV racing. It was a largely quiet race for Davison, although he finished 16th after starting 28th.
Davison returned to Indy in 2015, this time for Dale Coyne. Tristan Vautier qualified the car for Davison, as he was competing in a Pirelli World Challenge event in Canada. Due to a change in the rules, Davison and his №19 car moved to the back of the field. It was during a caution on lap 113, Davison made contact with teammate Pippa Mann in the pits, causing Davison to slide into the car and crew of Vautier. Both Davison and Vautier retired from the race due to this accident. Davison finished in 27th due to the incident.
Davison looks forward to the opportunity despite the way he was given it. “This is never the circumstance that a driver wants to secure an opportunity to drive in the Indianapolis 500. With that said, I’m extremely excited and ready to take on this challenge. The prime goal will be to secure a strong result for the team, Sebastien and all our sponsors. I can’t wait to get started.”
There will be very little time to prepare, and his team will be starting from the back of the field. “The previous two times I’ve done it, I’ve done a short program,” said Davison. “Probably done less practice laps than anyone, so it’s not new to me…I’m not in unfamiliar territory.”
To make matters worse, Davison and Dale Coyne Racing are running on a backup primarily setup for road racing.
“ For today, look, straight up, we’re running a road course backup car. We knew we weren’t going to be particularly quick, but we just needed to try to get the car to handle well, with a lot of cars in front of us obviously… Yeah, we’re all aware of what our situation is here. It’s obviously very compromised. We’ve just got to do the best we can with it and keep the car in one piece. There’s no excuses for doing anything negligent. Yeah, just sticking with the program and just having to be patient.” — James Davison
Despite the circumstances, Davison is ready to race in his third Indianapolis 500. “I love this place. It’s what I grew up watching. Just really looking forward to getting started.”