Daytona 200 Week brings the top road racers to Daytona International Speedway each March. After 11 days of constant racing action, the culminates with the biggest motorcycle race in the world: the Daytona 200 by Arai. Photo courtesy International Speedway Corporation
On February 22, 1959, the Daytona International
Speedway opened to host the first Daytona 500. The posted awards
for the "500-mile International Sweepstakes" totaled $67,760. A
field of 59 cars competed before a crowd of more than 41,000 fans.
It took three days to determine that Lee Petty was the winner of
the "close call" finish over Johnny Beauchamp.
The history of automotive competition can be traced
back to 1903, when two gentlemen placed a friendly wager on who had
the fastest horseless carriage. Until 1935, the wide and
hard-packed sands of Daytona Beach provided the venue for years of
speed trials, called Land Speed Record Runs. In 1936 stock car
racing began on the beach. The original 3.2-mile course had a north
turn located just south of town; half the course was on the beach,
and half was on paved public roadway. A local mechanic, Bill
France, entered the inaugural race and finished fifth. Stock car
racing halted during World War II, and resumed in 1946 when France
began promoting stock car and motorcycle races on the beach. He
initiated organizational meetings in late 1947 for NASCAR, the
National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, which was founded
in early 1948.
As the Daytona Beach area developed and grew in
population, the motor races, which were also attracting larger
audiences, moved to the quieter southern part of the beach, and
eventually grew too big for that area. Since race fan and promoter,
France built the Daytona International Speedway for approximately
$3 million, it has been in continuous operation since 1959. The
speedway is the largest sporting arena in the Southeast, and is on
property that covers approximately 480 acres, including the track
site, offices, parking area, and the 44-acre Lake Lloyd. There are
more than 165,000 grandstand seats.
Stock cars use the 2.5-mile tri-oval course and
sports cars, motorcycles, and go-karts use the 3.56-mile road
circuit. The Speedway currently presents ten separate racing
weekends annually, including stock cars, sports cars, motorcycles,
go-karts and trucks. Its schedule, which includes two solid months
of testing, is more varied than any other racing facility in the
world; thus, the Speedway is known as the "World Center of
Documentation includes a legacy report, six slides, a
photo, and a media kit.
Originally submitted by: John L. Mica, Representative (7th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.