Yesterday was a sad day which has led to grieving for several of us. In one day the world lost Arnold Palmer, Gary Davis, and Jim Siewert’s brother. Gary and Jim are part of our local racing family. Gary Davis passed away from his battle with cancer.
Gary was friend, a competitor, at one point an arch rival, but most of all a person I could count on when I needed assistance, when racing and/or at the race tracks! Gary and I are responsible for a couple of changes which have occurred at the local racetracks and these procedures are still used locally today.
Gary began his racing career at Lakeside Speedway on Leavenworth Road in 1988. He earned the NASCAR Charger Rookie of the Year. This was also my first year of being behind the wheel and even though we were competitors on the track we did not meet until the 1988 Central Auto Racing Boosters Banquet held at the Armory. Gary was a very good dirt driver and actually transferred some of that driving style to the asphalt when Lakeside Speedway moved to its present location. One of the hardest competitors to pass on the asphalt because his tail was left no right no left swinging every which way making it hard to choose which way to pass inside or outside. Our racing bordered on being rivals for a time as there are lots of pictures with he and I side by side or nose to tail. In fact, we drivers count the times someone got into us and I counted seven times he got into me and spun me to the one time I did him and after we both quit racing we laughed together about this, most recently January 9, 2016.
But let’s talk about the one time I spun Gary, there were five of us running nose to tail and like I said above Gary was a hard man to pass. Going into turn 3 at Lakeside I elected to challenge him on the low side for fourth but there was a slow car in the low lane. Quickly I checked in the mirror (yes on asphalt we ran mirrors) and the hole was closing as Kevin Rosewicz was coming quickly. I thought I could easily slide up in front of Kevin and behind Gary but in the process we were in the apex of the turn and I clipped Gary spinning him.
Well, back then only the car that spun had to go to the rear. The officials sent Gary to the rear and I started dropping back, after all I spun Gary, but the officials moved me back up to fourth. Two laps later we experienced a red flag and the field had to stop on the back straight, who pulls up next to me, none other than Gary Davis. We laughed about this event after we both quit racing. At the time he was pointing at me and yelling and I was pointing at myself and trying to yell back, “Sorry it was my fault”. The funny part to this whole story, we both had on full face helmets, so not only could we not hear each other we could not read lips either. After this race we both talked and agreed if we were ever officials both drivers should go to the rear.
In 1997 this rule went into effect at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways and became national news. We always ran a support class of the Late Models with the NASCAR trucks. NASCAR ran their show and we ran the Late Model show. When one late model got into another late model and spun the lead late model we sent them both to the back, NASCAR editor Paul Schaefer came running into the booth and asked about this rule. He was impressed we had this rule and published a story about I-70 Speedway and this rule in the next NASCAR magazine. Soon this became the standard around the country and where did it start, at Lakeside Speedway when I spun Gary accidently.
In 1992, Gary and I were both elected to the Central Auto Racing Boosters Sergeant-at-Arms position. Not only were we competitors on the track but now we were partners in crime in keeping the peace. Our first act was to get a couple of inebriated drivers wives to quit dancing on the table at the banquet and accomplish their dancing on the floor. We were successful in accomplishing this task but only after we angered the dancing wife and she got off the table and ran to her husband who came up to us and thanked us. He had been trying to get her to leave.
Gary was not afraid to get Grandma racing started either, again, in around about way I was part of that. You see there was a powder puff race coming up at Lakeside Speedway. All week long I turned down offers for women to race my car and Diana was declared ineligible since she was a regular competitor. Gary blew the motor in his car in the heat race and who met me at the scales but Gary and Vicki Davis. Needless to say I allowed Vicki to drive my car and she won the race with the most curious line any of us had ever seen. Literally she would bounce the right rear of the car off the turn 2 and 4 walls to straighten it and then shoot down the straightaways. Years later this led to Grandma Racing at I-70 Speedway in the pink truck, prepared by Gary.
In January 2001, I was asked by Jeff Berger then President of Kansas Speedway to find 20 to 25 people to serve as ambassadors who if they meet Dale Earnhardt would not go “Oh my god you are Dale Earnhardt”. The first people I called Vicki and Gary Davis and this group became the Pit Tour Club. So you see anytime around the racing community if help was needed Vicki and Gary were there.
This leads to last time I was able to ask for help. We needed help at the back gate at Lakeside and because cone chick (Susan Silvey) had moved to Florida, I asked Gary if he would become the cone guy. He accepted and while not as pretty as Susan, having been around racing he slid right in to doing a great job until…..one night someone racing ran over the cone and took it with them. Gary was able to retrieve the cone but it was pretty much demolished. This led to the single file restarts but no passing until your past the flagstand rule. Once again Gary and I working together established a new baseline in racing. The last few years since the cone rule died, Gary took care of entry into the pits at Lakeside and then did the line ups. This job is really the master of the 3 ring circus because this person keeps the races moving. Gary was outstanding at this job!
Gary had lots of respect from those of us who raced with him and worked with him all these years. He gave me the advice to retire as soon as I could, it was the best thing he had done. Now that I am retired I agree. On January 9, David Russell and I hosted a party for Gary. This idea was not mine, it was Dave Perkins a longtime friend and former Charger Champion. Dave and I had been talking and I told him about Gary and his battle. Dave enjoyed racing with Gary and working with Gary at Lakeside, he suggested we hold a party for Gary because years ago they attended a New Year’s Eve party at his home. This party was the last time I saw Gary, but looking back we accomplished a lot together.
He is missed, but all I can say is thanks for the memories! God you took home a special person, someone who has touched many of us, thank you for all the good times together, be with Gary’s family as they grieve, be with all of us who will miss him, he was a special person, a special friend, thank you for our time together, in Jesus Name, Amen.