An Early Start To The Month

The Month of May got an unofficial early kickoff last night – actually, there were two early kickoffs. First, Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee went nightly for the month starting last night. Then, one of my favorite traditions for the entire month started last night with The Talk of Gasoline Alley with Donald Davidson. Last year, I don’t think things kicked off until about a week later. I’m glad that both have decided to start things off before the month officially begins tomorrow.

Curt and Kevin will handle the present-day goings on with the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, while Donald will tackle the past by answering questions “of a nostalgic nature”. Last night was an e-mail only show, a rather new phenomenon that has only been utilized for the past three of four years. The first “live” show for Donald will air tonight, but there will be no show on Thursday night because of the Indiana Pacers game. No offense to my friends in Indiana, but I’m not a fan of the NBA at all. Therefore, it would suit me fine if the Pacers bow out of the playoffs for good tonight, so that their games no longer preempt any racing programming.

I’m not quite sure of Donald Davidson’s age, but the way I figure it – he’s got to be within a year or two of seventy. Some people’s mind already begins slipping at that age, but not Donald’s. He sounds as sharp as he did forty years ago. How he pulls those anecdotes and bits of trivia out of his mind with no books or computers to aid him is beyond me. He readily admits that he knows much more about the 1964 Indianapolis 500 than the ones within the past five years – but he is still up on current info as well.

Part of the fun of listening to Donald is listening to him squirm when someone asks him a question he doesn’t want to answer. He hates to discuss controversy, so it’s probably wise to avoid asking him about the finish to the 1981 race when Bobby Unser passed cars under the yellow coming out of the pits, resulting in Mario Andretti being declared the winner before a five-month legal battle overturned that victory and handed it back to Unser. You can tell over the air that Donald bristles when that question comes up and he hates discussing it – although he actually touched on it last night.

However, that doesn’t come close to other topics Donald would prefer he never had to hear again; such as Jigger Sirois going for the pole in 1969, Jim Hurtubise having beer under the hood of his roadster in the qualifying line, Eldon Palmer crashing the pace car in 1971 or anything having to do with the formation of CART or driver fatalities.

What is a favorite topic for Donald Davidson? The more obscure, the better. He loves questions about any riding mechanics, Leon Duray, Cliff Bergere or anything regarding the Novi. He admits he cringes when someone calls to ask about their grandfather who supposedly drove in the “500”. More times than not, he has to tell them the disappointing news that Grandpa’s career was a myth.

Although last night’s show was an e-mail only show, it’s always intriguing to find out who will be the first caller of the season. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the first caller last year was longtime regular caller "Dave from Marion". Other regulars include "Jerry from Delphi", "Paul from Racine", "Joe from Wichita Falls" or "Mike from Vernon Hills". Although I’ve had the honor of talking to Donald face-to-face many times over the past few years – I’ve never called the show (although I’ve sent in a couple of e-mails). Maybe I’ll change that this year…or maybe I won’t. I prefer just sitting back and listening to Donald spin yarns.

Curt and Kevin opened their nightly edition by taping the first part of their program at IMS while Rookie Orientation was going on in the background. They discussed the Barber race and also the latest news and rumors regarding the upcoming Indianapolis 500 – including Sage Karam being confirmed in a joint effort between Chip Ganassi Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold. Curt Cavin also mentioned a nugget that I was personally interested in. He said that on Thursday, Pippa Mann would be confirmed in the third car at Dale Coyne.

I’m hoping that is the case. Most know I’m a big fan of Pippa Mann – not just because we’ve struck up nice friendship over the last few years, but she is one of IndyCar’s best ambassadors. I witnessed that firsthand at Barber last weekend, when she and “IndyCar Mom” organized a tweet-up on Saturday afternoon. Pippa went out of her way to explain all of the intricacies of IndyCar racing to potential new fans. After her broadcast duties of IndyCar and Indy Lights practices, qualifying and races – she still took time to work to introduce new fans to the sport.

Kevin also revealed a little inside information regarding Sunday’s broadcast, telling us little tidbits like the pit-reporters lost the broadcast for about fifteen laps and couldn’t say or hear anything. He also shared the uncomfortable nugget that he did some of the Indy Lights race broadcast in his underwear, while changing into his fire suit for the IndyCar race. That’s only information you can get on Trackside.

Getting back to The Talk of Gasoline Alley – Donald Davidson is a Speedway treasure. Like Jim Nabors, he is a treasure that won’t last forever. Every year he does this show is a gift. Savor it. So for the present, listen to Trackside every weeknight (that isn’t preempted by the Pacers). For a nightly trip to yesteryear, take in The Talk of Gasoline Alley with Donald Davidson. Listen to both shows on 1070 The Fan here and click on “AM 1070” next to “Listen Live” near the upper right-hand side; or download the 1070 The Fan App for your smart phone or tablet. Trackside begins at 7:00 EDT, while Donald starts at 8:00. The Month of May is upon us.

George Phillips

Please Note: There will be a special post tomorrow, Thursday May 1. For those that didn’t notice, I also had a rare Tuesday post yesterday. Please check it out as well as tomorrow’s – GP.


19 Responses to “An Early Start To The Month”

  1. Thanks for the into, George, but you left out a very critical piece of info! What time is the show?

  2. Yesterday was not Rookie Orientation; it was a special day for Kurt Busch to COMPLETE his Rookie Orientation and for Jaques Villenueve to get a refresher at The Track (as we call it here in Indy).

    By the way, you can listen to a podcast of both radio shows! Go to and go to “Shows,” clik “Trackside,” then clik “Podcast.”

    Today will be an open test of the new Road Course @ IMS for all the drivers. You can park in the Museum lot free, and watch it all day long….

    • Phil, most local media outlets and teams were referring to yesterday’s running as ROP, including Trackside Online. I think George was within his rights to refer to yesterday’s program as “Rookie Orientation”. Thanks for the heads-up on today’s activities.

  3. Tsong in the Orient Says:


  4. billytheskink Says:

    I also find it kinda funny when Donald Davidson gets asked a question he clearly does not want to answer, on the condition that the caller sounds generally interested in wanting to hear about it. Several of the callers asking Donald these questions (especially the Eldon Palmer one) are obviously trying to make him squirm, something I found funny just a couple of times before it got old.

    In any event, most of the “controversial” questions Donald is asked are well-covered by other sources. I tend to agree with “the more obscure, the better”, because usually the more obscure the question, the more likely I learn something new and interesting. You can read about the 1981 500 controversy in dozens of books, but only Donald can tell you the story of Sheldon Kinser in New York City meeting with Sergio Valente Jeans about sponsorship.

    I couldn’t choose between the shows, I greatly enjoy them both and effort to listen to every single edition live of via podcast. For all of the issues and disappointments that come with being an Indycar fan these days, Trackside and TTOGA are two tremendous positives to the fan experience.

  5. If I had to choose between shows (and I clearly love both, to be sure), I’d pick Trackside. This is probably because Trackside manages to stay fresh over the course of the month (handling daily news items with a wide variety of potential guests will do that for you), while TOGA starts to get a little stale by about the Tuesday before the 500. While I find myself with a big, dopey involuntary grin on my face during the first couple of weeks worth of “OH! HAHAHAHA!”s when Donald receives a call from one of the regulars or gets a request to profile a particularly obscure driver, by that last week of the month, I’ve had more than my fill of “Say, do you know what Jim Hurtubise is up to nowadays? And do you know why he loved the roadsters so much?” calls.

    Anyway, May is getting going. It’s about time.

  6. Ryan Johnson Says:

    I’m really happy for Pippa getting an apparent ride for Indianapolis but I was really wanting to see Stefan Wilson get his shot at the 500. From all the articles throwing his name around for a potential seat I’m assuming the 3rd Coyne car was that opportunity? I believe this confirmation would give us 32 driver/car combinations… There is certainly a wild list of one off drivers in this field that could be near the front on race day.

    • From what I’ve hear, the Stefan Wilson possibility was always with a team based in Indianapolis. Coyne is based in Chicago. I always sort of suspected Dreyer & Reinbold as S. Wilson’s ace in the hole until yesterday.

  7. I spent many a drive home from the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 back to Cincinnati listening to Donald Davidson answering questions as part of the post race programming until the station faded out. Really loved listening. Added to the race day experience.

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