Cycle News

Cycle News 2021 Issue 26 June 29

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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VOLUME 58 ISSUE 26 JUNE 29, 2021 P131 hundred dollars was a lot of money in those days. I felt like the richest man in the world." After Detroit, Davis took a train up to Saratoga, New York, to race another National, and again he won. Davis was somewhat taken aback by his sudden success. "I didn't know whether I was that good or everyone else was that bad," he said. After winning his first two Na- tionals, Davis' life changed dra- matically. Suddenly, this homebody from Ohio was traveling all across the country racing. Indian put him on the company payroll, paying him $25 per week plus expenses. With the USA entering World War I in 1917, racing slowed to a crawl. Davis was drafted into the Army. When he got off the train at the Army base in Chilicothe, Ohio, Davis was recognized by a commander, and he assigned him motorcycle-escort duty. He served out the war stateside, transporting and escorting important military and government officials in a side- car rig. In 1918, Davis married his wife, Louise, through a Justice of the Peace in Springfield, Illinois, on the spur of the moment after fellow racer Gene Walker needled him for not being married. Davis said that after Walker found out he and Lou- ise were married, he told Davis that he convinced all the other riders to let Davis win the race that weekend. Davis was fastest in qualifying and went on to win the event easily. "To this day, I don't know whether I won that race fair and square or the boys let me win," Davis admitted. Davis' employment as a factory Indian rider came to an abrupt end in 1920. Davis went to a race in Phoenix, only to find that it was an invitational and that only two riders of each motorcycle brand would be allowed to ride. Two Indian riders were already invited to race. Not one to be eas- ily deterred, Davis got the referee to agree to let him race if he got a wire from M&ATA president A.B. Coffman. Davis went to the West- ern Union office down the street, and, through the persuasion of a big box of chocolates, convinced a young lady working there that he merely wanted to pull a gag on a friend and got her to fake a telegram that simply read: "Per- mit Davis to Ride," signed A.B. Coffman. Davis then paid a young boy a quarter to ride his bike to the track and give the telegram to the referee. Davis watched as the ref opened the telegram and then waved Davis over and permitted him to race. The following week Davis paid dearly for his shenani- gans when he was suspended for a year by one A.B. Coffman. To add insult to injury, Davis was also fired from Indian for the incident. In less than 24 hours after being fired by Indian, Harley-Davidson quickly hired Davis, took care of his suspension, and he continued to race the rest of the season. For the kid who had rarely been out of his hometown while grow- ing up, motorcycle racing carried him across the country and even overseas. Davis won numerous races in Australia on a variety of machines, mostly British. After his retirement from racing, Davis was instrumental in forming the motorcycle division of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He worked for the Highway Patrol for 14 years. Afterward, he went to work for his family-owned architectural busi- ness. He also became an official for the AMA. Davis recalled two moments as the most memorable events of his years as a starter. One was the time he flagged the only dead heat in AMA history, when Bobby Hill and Billy Huber crossed the finish line simultaneously in Atlanta on August 8, 1948. Another was at Daytona in 1948 when he was hit by Don Evans' crashing bike, just as Evans was receiving the checkered flag. That incident sidelined Davis for a year. Ironically, it was his only serious injury from racing. He became a celebrity in the latter years of his life. He fre- quently spoke at gatherings of motorcyclists, entertaining crowds with humorous tales of his life and times in racing. Davis remained sharp even beyond his 100th birth- day and was always happy to grant interviews to writers and reporters. Davis died on February 5, 2000, in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was 103. One of the few links to the very beginnings motorcycle racing in America had lived long enough to see a new century. CN This Archives edition is reprinted from the February 17, 2010 issue. CN has hundreds of past Archives editions in our files, too many destined to be ar- chives themselves. So, to prevent that from happening, in the future, we will be revisiting past Archives articles while still planning to keep fresh ones coming down the road. -Editor SURVIVOR

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