James Davison is visibly emotional after qualifying for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
James Davison had never experienced any Bump Day pressure at Indianapolis. In his three previous starts there were only 33 cars. In 2015 and 2017 he never even qualified and started 33rd.
But this month he earned the 33rd position. Did he ever.
After pounding the Turn 2 wall on Friday, his Byrd/Belardi/Hollinger crew worked all night to repair the Dallara/Chevrolet that was leased from A.J. Foyt. Then on Saturday the 31-year-old Aussie ran 14 laps in morning practice and before qualifying at 224.798mph.
It turned out to be the slowest speed that made the race.
And the catch was that he qualified shortly after 2:30 p.m. and then withstood more than three hours of people trying to send him home.
“It was a stressful 24 hours to say the least,” said Davison. “I owe this team and these mechanics immensely. They worked their butt off to repair my car and I owe them. Their job is tough enough without having to rebuild the car.
“But the best way to to repay them was to make the show. I just had to man up and get on with it.”
It’s tough enough to get back on the horse less than 24 hours after clouting the IMS wall, but Davison doesn’t lack confidence or bravado.
“I went out to qualify and my first lap was 225.7 and then it dropped off,” as he explained the rule of thumb on Saturday. “So then I just had to sit and wait and it was tough. I didn’t want to withdraw our speed but I also didn’t want to put my fate in someone else’s hands.
“It was a Catch 22 and it was pretty agonizing those last 30 minutes.”
Sitting on the bubble, Davison withstood three attempts by Pippa Mann and two by James Hinchcliffe.
“I was worried about Hinch but when Pippa got ahead of him in the line, I felt a little safer,” he said. “I wanted to go back out because I know I could have gone quicker but I didn’t want to do a Paul Tracy (PT withdrew his time in 2010 but then went slower and missed the show).
“I would have never believed we would be quicker than Hinch but this is a crazy place.”
A year ago, Davison stepped in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais and did a helluva job — charging from last to the front of the field before being eliminated in a crash with 20 laps left.
This year his team was assembled by David Byrd — whose father sponsored cars for two decades at Indy — Indy Lights owner Brian Belardi and Brad Hollinger, a shareholder in the Williams F1 team. They leased a car from Foyt and they’ve got more heart than funding.
“Motorsports is full of highs and lows,” said Davison. “Sometimes Indianapolis rewards bravery and experience and these last two days were a life experience. But we earned it this time and it feels great.”