Fifty years of racing honoured
Barry Davidson’s involvement in auto racing began more than 50 years ago.
And he can thank his father, Bob Davidson, for his lifelong obsession.
“The nights he wasn’t racing, I was in the pits and Jack Munn, who was the promoter at the time, allowed me to stand in the infield with a fire extinguisher,” Barry said.
The now 64-year-old, who is one of the 2018 inductees into the CAA Niagara Wall of Fame ceremony Aug. 4 at the Merrittville Speedway, was not your typical cornerman, who are usually responsible for running out to help extinguish fires.
“I was told, because I was only 14, that if there was a fire, stay where I was at and don’t go running on the race track,” he said. “It was more or less because my dad was friends with the promoter and he allowed me to go stand in the corner and watch the cars up close as opposed to being stuck in the grandstand with the rest of the kids.”
That initial foray into racing was the start of a career that has included stints as a driver, official and owner.
“My dad raced, he was one of the originals at Merrittville, so we were brought up around Merrittville and Speedway Park,” Barry said. “We don’t like to admit it, but racing is a sickness and you just can’t shake that sickness.”
The symptoms of that sickness are many.
“I used to get a real thrill being on that starter’s stand when you get 24 cars coming at you,” he said. “Believe it or not, it will blow your hat off because there is so much air force coming at you all at once.
“And it’s just nice when you are hands on and it’s quite the joy to see my grandson do well in cars and karts. There is just something about it. I just love the sport.”
As a driver, Barry started out in the late models and raced them for six years.
“They cancelled the late model class and I didn’t want to quit so I mortgaged my house and I bought Don Turner’s modified,” he said. “I raced modified for two and a half years.”
Around that time, Stan Friesen owned Merrittville and Ransomville Speedways and asked Davidson to be his starter.
“He had seen me start at Speedway Park. I had started there when they first paved it.” he said. “He told me he would pay me $50 a week and I could still race my car on Mondays at Humberstone and I thought that that was a good deal because I was reaching into the family coffers to keep the car going.”
Barry would be the first to admit he wasn’t a star driver.
“I wasn’t one of their top shoes by any means and that’s why Stan saw that I was struggling and he knew that I would make a better starter than a driver.”
He ended up as the starter at Ransomville, Merrittville and Humberstone Speedways for more than 30 years before he stepped down.
“My grandkids were growing up and it was time to hang it up and give it to someone else,” he said.
He ended up helping out his grandsons, Tyler and Dylan Davidson, compete in Merrittville’s Tuesday night kart racing. He followed Dylan into Saturday Night’s Mod Lite Division and then to the Sportsman Division where Dylan still competes today.
“I am part-owner of the car for my grandson,” he said. “I always laugh because my son was a racer and now his son is a racer.
“My job is to keep the owner away from the driver when things go bad. My son (Bob Jr.) and my grandson can get at it pretty good sometimes.”
The owner of Barry Davidson Line Marking and Property Maintenance still enjoys following his grandson’s racing exploits.
“If he is there, I am there,” Barry said. “We travel to New York State, Humberstone and the circuit.”
He is honoured to be inducted into the CAA Niagara Wall of Fame.
“I had over 30 years as an official and eight or nine years as a driver, and it’s not everybody that gets put on a wall, I guess.”
Also being inducted Saturday is Steve DeVos. He too grew up in the sport following his father Jim, who was a racer at Checkered Flag Speedway in Windsor.
DeVos started to attend races at Merrittville Speedway as a fan when his family moved to Niagara. He became a driver in the early 1980s and captured championships in 1987, 1992 and 2002.
Devos then became an official, starting as the driver of the pace car, into the infield as a cornerman, before becoming assistant starter to then starter Doug Leonard. For the last six seasons, he has been Merrittville’s starter.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned to BPSN for a feature on Steve DeVos. We have been unable to reach him.