CIRCUITS: DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Name: Daytona International Speedway
The hard sands of Daytona Beach, Florida have been used since the turn of the century for speed records. It was, and remains, one of the world's most famous beaches - 23 miles long - centered on the holiday resort on the Florida coast. The first land speed record set at Daytona dates back to January 1905 when Fred Marriott took his Stanley Steamer steam car up to 121.57mph. It was at Daytona in March 1927 that Henry Segrave recorded 203.79mph in his Sunbeam and where 11 months later that record was beaten by Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird, which edged the record up to 206.95mph. Two months later Campbell was beaten by Ray Keech. Frank Lockhart tried to beat that record and somersaulted into the sea, surviving intact only to die later trying to the record again. The record-breakers continued their duel at Daytona until March 1935 when Campbell took Bluebird to 276.71mph. After that record-breaking moved away to the desert at Bonneville Flats and Black Rock.
The first beach races at Daytona took place in the mid-1930s
Legend has it that Bill France, heading south for a new life in Miami in 1934, had his car break down in Daytona and decided to settle there. He raced on the beach in 1935 and in 1938 took over the promotion of the events. The war disrupted activities but in 1947 France organized NASCAR to oversee racing which until then had been carried out on the beaches and in the woods of North Carolina. That proved to be a success and France then embarked on another dream: to build a speedway in Daytona. In October 1955 he took out a lease on 377 acres of swampland inland from the beach and began building a speedway. It cost him $3m but in 1959 the facility was finally finished. The 2.5 mile anti-clockwise tri-oval, the straights banked to 18 degrees and the imposing East and West Turns at 31-degrees, it was far beyond anything the NASCAR racers had encountered up to that point and it was soon the center of the NASCAR world, not least because of an extraordinary finish in the first Daytona 500. There were 59 runners at the start and as the race developed Petty, Weatherly and Johnny Beauchamp fought a tooth-and-nail battle at the front, constantly switching position. Weatherly dropped back and as the finish drew close, the three found themselves together again, Weatherly a lap down. The three crossed the line side by side. Beauchamp was awarded the trophy. Three days later a photograph proved otherwise and Petty was given the cup!
Lee Petty went over the banking in 1961 and ended his own career but his son Richard, who raced in the first Daytona 500, went on to win seven 500s and three Firecracker 400s, the latter being the second annual NASCAR event at the track, which was begun in 1959 on Independence Day.
As the reputation grew so did the events with the Daytona 500 expanding into a Speed Week. A road course was laid out in the infield and the Daytona 24 Hours (which began in 1966) soon became one of the classic events of the racing calendar.
The France Family built Talladega in Alabama in 1969 and continued to build up NASCAR which by the 1990s had become a billion dollar industry with stars such as Dale Earnhardt (he was killed at the Speedway in 2001) and the France Family has expanded its International Speedway Corporation empire into the metropolitan markets of North America.