Home to NASCAR's biggest race — the Daytona 500
The history of Daytona International Speedway began in 1953 when Bill France Sr. realized the days of racing on the beach were numbered due to spreading land usage of a rapidly growing population and huge race crowds. France put his plans for the future of racing in Daytona Beach, Fla., in motion on April 4, 1953 with a proposal to construct a permanent speedway facility. On August 16, 1954, France signed a contract with the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials to build what would become Daytona International Speedway, the "World Center of Racing." In 1957, land clearing began for the Speedway. The famous 31-degree highbanks were included in the design of the track so higher speeds could be achieved and to make it easier for fans to see the cars race around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The dirt for the banking was taken from the infield and resulted in a 29-acre space that is known as Lake Lloyd.
Racing moved from the beach-road course to Daytona International Speedway in 1959 and the first Daytona 500 took place on Feb. 22 in front of a crowd of over 41,000. Car entries included both hard tops and convertibles (it was the only Daytona 500 that included convertibles). The finish of the inaugural Daytona 500 was too close to call. Johnny Beauchamp went to Victory Lane, but 61 hours later Lee Petty was declared the official winner after a clip of newsreel footage showed that Petty nipped Beauchamp at the line by approximately two feet.
On July 5, 2013, ground broke on the $400 million Daytona Rising frontstretch renovation project that would transform the historic speedway into a state-of-the-art motorsports facility. The Speedway now has approximately 101,500 permanent, wider and more comfortable seats, 40 escalators, 17 elevators, twice as many restrooms, three times as many concession stands and three concourse levels that span the nearly mile-long frontstretch. In addition, the Speedway features over 60 luxury suites with trackside views and a completely revamped hospitality experience for corporate guests. The projected was completed in January 2016 and was awarded the SportsBusiness Journal’s prestigious Sports Business Award for Sports Facility of the Year.
The approximately 500-acre motorsports complex boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe.
- Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
- Size: 2.5-mile tri-oval
- Banking/Turns: 31°
- Banking/Tri-oval: 18°
- Banking/Backstretch: 2°
- Cup Race Dates: Feb. 17, 2019 for Daytona 500 and July 6, 2019 for Coke Zero Sugar 400
- 2019 Race Length: 500 miles/200 laps for the Daytona 500; and 400 miles/160 laps for the Coke Zero Sugar 400
- Track Qualifying Record: 210.364 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)
- Race Record: 177.602 mph (Buddy Baker, 1980)
- 2018 RESULTS from Cup Races in February: 1. Austin Dillon 2. Bubba Wallace 3. Denny Hamlin 4. Joey Logano 5. Chris Buescher ...in July: 1. Erik Jones 2. Martin Truex Jr. 3. AJ Allmendinger 4. Kasey Kahne 5. Chris Buescher
- Official Website: daytonainternationalspeedway.com
CLASSIC NASCAR MOMENT AT DAYTONA
In 2014, with the sport facing a number of drastic changes, NASCAR needed a dose of familiarity. In its marquee event, the Daytona 500, it got just that from racing’s favorite son. Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke a 55-race winless skid with a thrilling victory in the Great American Race, giving NASCAR Nation a brief moment of serenity. A tweaked rules package promoted passing, and the evening’s cooler temperatures — a lengthy rain delay pushed the bulk of the event into primetime — increased grip and speed. The result was an action-packed show that witnessed seven cautions, four of which came in the final 37 laps, setting up pit strategies that further escalated the drama. “Man, winning this race is the greatest feeling that you can feel in this sport, aside from accepting the trophy for the championship,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to feel that again.”
“I had such a run, and I had to use it, and if I lift right there on the last lap, I get run over out the back, too,” says last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Austin Dillon, explaining what was going through his mind as he battled Aric Almirola and others for the historic win in his No. 3 car. “It’s part of this place. I’ve been run over. I’ve been in the catchfence and not mad after a race because it’s just part of it, man. Everybody does it. It’s part of it. You just hope you’re the one that comes out on the good part of it, and sometimes you don’t. It’s just crazy racing. That’s why people love to show up for it, because you never know who’s going to win. And as a driver, if you’re in the mix and have a chance to go for it at the end, you’ve just got to stick it in there and hope it works out.”
FANTASY NASCAR TIPS
PLAYOFF PERFORMERS: RYAN BLANEY Blaney was runner-up in the 2017 Daytona 500 and had the best car in NASCAR’s Super Bowl last season. Unfortunately, a series of late wrecks left him sidelined in seventh with a potentially winning Ford. A dead-last performance in July is worth noting, but bad luck has never struck him here twice in a row. AUSTIN DILLON The controversial 2018 Daytona 500 winner, courtesy of a backstretch bump of Aric Almirola, has a little mojo going here. A ninth-place finish last July marked his seventh top 10 in 11 career Daytona starts; compare that to 27 combined top 10s at 23 other tracks on the circuit.
UNDERDOG: BUBBA WALLACE The Richard Petty Motorsports driver started his rookie season with a second-place finish in the 2018 Daytona 500. That was the best performance for an African-American driver at NASCAR’s Cup level in 54 years. No finish worse than 15th in three career starts bodes well for the driver of a No. 43 car that won here with Aric Almirola just five years ago.
RUNS ON 7 CYLINDERS: KYLE BUSCH The 2015 Cup champ suffered a serious injury here that season that kept him out of 11 races. He hasn’t run inside the top 15 at Daytona since July 2016. The Great American Race remains elusive.