The track at Daytona International Speedway needs no introduction. Since opening in 1959, the track has been home to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s premier racing event. The 2.5-mile tri-oval course, famous for its four high-banked corners, has played host to some of motorsports most memorable races. The speedway grounds also host concerts, civic events, car shows, motorcycle and boat racing and more.
History of Daytona International Speedway
Racing at Daytona Beach goes back more than a century, with the first informal race between two horseless carriages taking place right on the beach in 1903. The first timed run involved Ransom E. Olds, of Oldsmobile fame. The hard-packed Florida sands were also the birthplace of automotive speed trials before these moved out west to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.
In 1936, a local mechanic named William “Big Bill” France, Sr. participated in the inaugural race of a new half-beach, half-public road course and placed fifth. Soon, France became a promoter of stock car races on the beach. By 1948, the circuit had moved south toward Ponce Inlet on account of increased development and a growing population. France realized a permanent track home would soon be needed and pitched his idea for a course to local officials in 1953.
In 1954, a deal was inked with the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County to build what would become Daytona International Speedway next to the municipal airport. France envisioned an ambitious road course on the site that would rival that of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He enlisted a local engineer known for wearing business suits with tennis shoes named Charles Moneypenny to design the tri-oval’s steep 31-degree banks that would allow for maximum speeds. Moneypenny collaborated with engineers of the Ford Proving Grounds in Detroit to arrive at a solution.
The new speedway hosted its first Daytona 500 on February 22, 1959, before a crowd of 41,000 spectators. The race ended in a photo finish, with Johnny Beauchamp initially celebrating in Victory Lane until Lee Petty was later revealed to have actually won the race. The first Rolex 24 sports car event was held there in 1962, and Trans-Am, Grand-Am and other races soon found a home at Daytona.
In 2013, the speedway broke ground on a $400 million renovation project, elevating the historic track into a state-of-the-art facility. A nearly mile-long frontstretch of concourses, concession stands and 101,500 seats now welcomes guests from all over the world. The updated Daytona was awarded Sports Business Journal’s Sports Facility of the Year in 2016.
Fun Facts About Daytona International Speedway
- During the design phase, France obtained a credential to attend the Indy 500 and went with the intention of taking notes on the track. Recognized as a potential competitor to Indy racing, the sanctioning racing body had him thrown out of the event.
- To create the track’s steep banking, 29 acres of infield were excavated. When it flooded due to the high water table, France named it Lake Lloyd in honor of Speedway Authority member Joseph Lloyd and speedboat races were held on the water.
- After the success of Daytona, Bill France and Charlie Moneypenny collaborated on the design and build of Alabama International Motor Speedway, now known as Talladega Superspeedway. Moneypenny also designed Michigan International Speedway.
- The late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. who was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, is still the track’s most successful racer, with 34 career victories there, including 12 Daytona qualifying races, seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races and the 1998 Daytona 500.
Events at Daytona are always exciting. Find a complete schedule of upcoming events at Daytona International Speedway. And as always, make sure you and your car are protected during your track day events with insurance from Lockton Motorsports. Find the policy that fits your needs and explore more track resources.