Like fine wine, Bobby Davis’ racing career gets better the older he gets.
The 52-year-old Columbus racer set a career high for wins in 2014 when he recorded eight feature victories. This season, which for him starts in a few weeks, he looks to better that mark and also capture his first career track title after 31 years of racing.
In the late 1960s Davis started attending weekly races at the 25th Street Speedway in Columbus. His great-uncle, J.B. Branum, was the promoter at the time. Davis would ride around in the water truck with Branum before the races. It was a family affair at 25th Street for the Davis Family as his father Joe worked the pit gate and his mother Brenda helped in the concession stand.
“Back then kids weren’t allowed in the pit areas at all tracks,” Bobby Davis said. “After I rode around with J.B., I would go sit in my dad’s truck and watch the races.”
In 1970, Joe Davis decided he wanted to start racing. He teamed up with Chuck Gilpin of Columbus for a year before heading out on his own a year later.
“Dad and Chuck had a 1956 Ford, they raced at Brownstown and Twin Cities, and here at 25th Street,” Bobby Davis said. “They would rotate each week driving the car. In ’71 dad bought a car from Columbus’ Butch Bland and raced on his own until 1976.”
Bobby’s boyhood racing idols were his dad, Joe; Chuck Gilpin; Ken “Hillbilly” Ogle; Johnny Robbins and the late Jack Owens. Owens was a regular competitor at 25th Street, Brownstown and Bloomington. He passed away in 1973 from a heart attack after a racing incident at Brownstown.
“I was devastated when he died,” Bobby Davis said. “One night at 25th Street, he let me sit in his racecar. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. He was a great driver.”
Bobby’s racing career finally started in 1983, two years after graduating from Columbus North High School. He started at Twin Cities in the Limited Late Model Division. They were tube frame cars with stock front clips. Unfortunately, Davis’ rookie season ended abruptly when he got put into the wall in only his third race. The car was totaled. Davis had to start over the next season.
In 1985, he bought a car from Edinburgh racer Buford Burton. He would run in the Late Model division until purchasing a new car from Roger Sullivan of Columbus in 1987. Sullivan was building a rapidly-growing chassis business. Not only did Sullivan himself have a car, but also his son, Matt; Gregg Lyle; Joe Johnson and Todd Gilpin.
Davis said it was one of the best cars he had ever driven.
“Roger built a great race car,” he said. “We would go down to Brownstown and make the late model feature almost every week with a junk motor. If I had the motor I have in my super stock nowdays back then in that car, who knows how it would have ended up?”
Unfortunately in August of 1987, Sullivan’s life was changed forever. In the midst of enjoying success on the track with his chassis creation, Sullivan suffered life-threatening injuries when a wheel exploded on him while airing up a tire. Sullivan survived his injuries, but his racing career and chassis building business was over.
In 2002, there was a changing point in Davis’ life. One night while at his long-time friend Wayne Tait’s race shop, he met his now fiancé, Tammy Sutton.
”I came over to see Wayne and she was there,” Davis said. “Her and I started talking. She seemed to know an awful lot about racing. I was just kidding around with her when I asked her if she wanted to go to the races with me the next week. She said, ‘Sure,’ and 13 years later, we are engaged.
“She is now officially my car owner,” he said. “She does all of my tire prep work, she knows how to change gears, do set-ups and so on. She can watch me out on the track and see what the car is doing and make suggestions on setup changes. She is a very intelligent woman, and I am lucky to have met her.”
So in a career where he has raced Late Models, Modifieds, Bombers, Street Stocks and now Super Stocks, Davis will try to do something he has never done — win a track championship. His third place finish in the final points at Whitewater Valley was the highest he had ever finished at any track he had raced. His eight wins a year ago came at two tracks — Whitewater Valley and Daugherty Speedway in Boswell. This year, he plans to race at Twin Cities and Bloomington Speedway.
Upcoming Local Race Schedule
Brownstown Speedway, Brownstown
Track Phone: 812-358-5332
Opening Race: Today (weather permitting) Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets
March 21: 18th Annual Indiana Icebreaker with Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Bowman Pro Late Models and Modifieds
Twin Cities Raceway Park, Vernon
Track Phone: (812) 346-7223
Opening Race: March 20, Crate Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets