The world learned Roger Rodas' name in the most unfortunate way late last November when he and actor/racer Paul Walker were killed in the Porsche Rodas was piloting. Less than six months after his loss, his name will be brought back to the spotlight in a fitting tribute by a young Australian driver making his debut at the Indy 500.
Always Evolving, a California-based aftermarket tuning shop founded by Rodas, has shifted its focus towards growing the brand name through merchandising since his death, and thanks to a chance encounter between Rodas and 27-year-old James Davison at an IndyCar Series race last August, an ongoing relationship between the Aussie and AE has delivered the two to compete in America's biggest race.
"It means a lot to be the one representing Always Evolving, to be the one bringing the brand into the spotlight at Indy," Davison told RACER. "Motorsport is a team sport, but the driver gets the vast majority of publicity for obvious reasons, but this is so much more and means so much more because of who I'm representing.
"There are so many drivers that would love to compete in the Indy 500 and Always Evolving has helped me make my dream come true. I owe it to Roger because I met him at Sonoma when I was doing my second-ever IndyCar race and he on the spot wanted to do a quick sponsorship deal with me and it grew from there."
Davison will carry branding to pay tribute to Rodas this month, and hopes to have members of the Rodas family with him on race day to watch as more than 300,000 people fill the 2.5-mile oval facility to see the field of 33 cars take the start.
"We have stickers on our car and my helmet; I'm racing in honor of Roger Rodas, and this all comes down to him," added Davison, who joins a talented crop of rookies and drives for KV Racing, the defending Indy 500 winners.
"I'm extremely grateful for everything the brand has done to support me, and hopefully we can bring back a little bit of happiness, obviously, to all his friends and family and keep his legacy and his project evolving. That's really why the brand is called Always Evolving.
"They've stepped up from sponsoring cars in the World Challenge series to now the Indy 500, the biggest race in the world. It's always evolving and hopefully it will evolve for us to do more in the future, but for right now, we're focused on making the race and putting these beautiful colors as far up in the race as possible."