INDIANAPOLIS – Australian ace James Davison will attempt both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 as part of a partnership with Hayward Motorsports and Jonathan Byrd’s Racing.
Racinboys.com first reported the news.
Davison will run both crown-jewel events next year with support from David Byrd and Brodie Hayward, as well as compete in selected AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series events under the Hayward Motorsports banner as well.
Team alignments for Davison’s runs at Daytona and Indianapolis will be announced later.
The most recent driver to attempt both Daytona and Indianapolis in the same season was Danica Patrick, who did so under the ‘Danica Double’ branding in 2018 as the final two on-track events of her motorsports career.
David Byrd of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, who backed the late Bryan Clauson in two of Clauson’s three Indianapolis 500 appearances, spoke with SPEED SPORT Friday by phone about the unique deal and how it came together.
“I’ve worked with James the last two years at Indy, and I’d known him for several years before that, where we tried to work together for a few years and it didn’t work out. Then it finally all came together,” said Byrd. “He really impressed with his performance. He’s always impressed me with his performance, from really the first time I saw him race at the Indy 500. I was always impressed with him and the way he handled the car and handled the pressure, because it was always a pressure situation that he was in.
“But it was late in the summertime this year when James told me that, at some point in time, he’d like to give Daytona a try,” Byrd continued. “For me, I’m always interested in doing interesting things when it comes to motorsports. … But James was able to get himself approved to race at Daytona in the Cup car. Usually they kind of stair-step drivers through ARCA or Trucks or Xfinity at Daytona or Talladega before they’ll approve them to run the Daytona 500, but based on his resume (across motorsports), he was approved.”
OILFIRE Whiskey will serve as the primary sponsor of the 33-year-old’s efforts at Daytona, as well as an associate partner during the Indianapolis 500.
“I’ve been partners with Brodie Hayward now since 2014 in one way, shape or form, and Brodie was working on his program with OILFIRE … and they had asked about the possibility of maybe adding a Daytona 500 component to the Hayward Motorsports and Byrd partnership, because they’d been there (as a NASCAR sponsor) before,” added Byrd. “When Brodie asked me about it, I laughed and said, ‘well, you know, as a matter of fact, not a week and a half ago James and I had this conversation and he got himself approved to run Daytona. So that’ll make a pretty compelling story for OILFIRE … where you have a driver running the Great American Race and the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, because there’s not a lot of that (type of) crossover these days. But James is now a guy that wants to do that and we’re excited for the prospect.”
“We sponsored a couple of NASCAR events this season and sponsored some of Brodie’s races earlier this year at Indy and the Chili Bowl,” said OILFIRE president Carroll Lockhart. “His teams are top notch. His quality of drivers and crews are some of the best out there. I feel with OILFIRE, the racing fans are the type of audience and clients that my company is trying to market to. As the industry shows in the whiskey business, music fans, racing fans and sports fans drink a lot of whiskey. So it was an easy choice for me. That’s why I jumped on the chance to sponsor Hayward (Motorsports) in 2020.”
Byrd also recognizes the importance of supporting and fostering grassroots racing and reconnecting it with the Indianapolis 500, seeing that as a key to the Davison deal.
“It’s so hard to make the jump from the dirt track or short track ranks to the upper echelon of the sport right now,” said Byrd. “It’s a tough transition. But at the same time, you can’t have racing at the top level without a strong foundation at the grassroots level. We still have an eye towards helping to develop a short track guy and a short track champion, but at the same time we want to try and take that next step and try to unite the short track world with IndyCar and the Indy 500 at least.
“In my eyes, Indy flourishes when it has a connection to the short track (world), and short track racing flourishes when it has a connection to the Indy 500,” he added. “Right now, (the pipeline) is a little bit broken, but I’m kind of trying to relink it a little bit. Short tracks are where many of us got our start. No matter what, they will always have our support in some way and we want to develop drivers that have the ability to stand in both worlds to aid in that cause.”
Speedweeks in February will mark Davison’s first attempt on the 2.5-mile Daytona Int’l Speedway oval, though he does have three starts in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.
Davison’s highest-career finish in the Indianapolis 500 was 12th, earned this past May with Dale Coyne Racing.