INDIANAPOLIS — James Davison is a modern day AJ Foyt or Mario Andretti. You can find him almost anywhere. He’ll show up to a local dirt track for a USAC race one night, run a NASCAR race one weekend, then show up to an IndyCar event another.
He’s raced the Chili Bowl, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Indy 500 and some select NASCAR races. That’s all just this year alone. In fact, if all goes well, Davison will qualify for the Indy 500 on Saturday then head to Daytona to race the Cup Series race on the road course on Sunday.
That as of now is still TBD though, as Davison says that Indy is the main goal for he and his program right now. If he heads to Daytona, he’ll miss a crucial practice session here in Indy too because they run head-to-head against each other.
“The biggest thing for us is the opportunity,” Davison said to me on Friday morning. “The Indy 500 is the priority. We don’t want to cost ourselves too much opportunity to improve our competitiveness by missing Sunday’s practice.”
He says so far, his car feels good here and is encouraged by the pace in his No. 51 Honda.
“First two days have ran very solid for our one-off Indy entry which can be prone to having a few hiccups and struggling for speed,” Davison said. “But our Dale Coyne Racing team with Rick Ware, Byrd, Belardi team have set a fantastic foundation. We’re running competitively in traffic, nothing special, but not terrible. Of course being able to put down a big tow lap indicates there’s some competitiveness there.”
That’s why Daytona is TBD right now. But, it’s also TBD because it’s going to be hard for him to challenge for a win too. The only thing that would be more enticing for him to go is if it rains in Daytona.
“As we’ve seen if it rains in NASCAR, that’s when the road course guys can shine,” he said on the scenario. “In a very small team situation, you can maybe find yourself in the top 10-15. It would motivate me.”
But, what’s not motivating is just how much disparity from the big teams to the small teams in NASCAR right now. Don’t get him wrong, he’s not complaining. He’s just telling the truth and what the smaller teams have been saying all along. I asked him if being on a road course in Daytona and so much unknowns for everyone else without any practice, wouldn’t that give him an advantage? He said an empathic, no.
“To be honest, no,” Davison said. “When I did my first Xfinity race in Road America in 2016. I qualified 18th 2 1/2 seconds off. Then I jumped in the Joe Gibbs car the next year and started on the front row and drove off into the distance and won the first stage by 4 or 5 seconds and I didn’t do one thing different. There’s just such a massive distance in the equipment and you just have to do what you can.”
The Australian native has driven a lot of race cars over the last couple of years, but it’s NASCAR that holds the candle of the disparity from the top to bottom.
“The biggest thing is NASCAR is just the disparity in equipment,” Davison continued. “It’s just mind-blowing. It’s something that was I never quite expecting when I first went into NASCAR. That’s for sure one thing that IndyCar has gotten down better is the parity. Hopefully the new car in 2022 will give teams and drivers more of an opportunity to shine as they should. rather than just purely being out spent.”
Davison says that the biggest reason though that he’s choosing to alter his career and to drive so many different race cars is just because of the opportunities or lackthereof, offered.
He says that as that the smallest of margins can affect having a job or not in racing, so why not hone his skills in anything he can get behind the wheel and hope it pays off.
“It first stems from the limited opportunity there is these days for the vast majority of the talent pool,” Davison said on why he races in so many different disciplines. “We all want to race F1 or IndyCar but it comes down to a lot of sponsor dollars or a lucky break. Obviously some people are going to miss out on that. If you do, you have to find arenas elsewhere to go racing. That’s where it all stems from.
“Just whatever I can race, I’ll keep my name out there and stay sharp and enjoy a career of being an opportunist. It’s quite unique for me to be between IndyCar and NASCAR in one year. It’s pretty cool.
“You can get very close to the limit, but with how competitive racing is these days, the fine details separates the good from the great. Some people can be losing their careers these days or their rides because they are only 2 or 3 tenths of a second too slow. That’s nothing. But, it’s enough to put you back 5-10 spots and then you eliminate your chance to win with track position or your car is off the screen and not on television. It certainly helps running full time in one series that’s for sure.”
Davison, has a great opportunity to really do something special here and after finishing 12th in last year’s race, he can challenge for a top 10 next Sunday.