|Daytona Beach Road Course|
|Location||Daytona Beach, Florida|
|No Major Events|
|Track shape||Road course|
|Track length||3.1 to 4.2 miles|
World speed recordsEdit
Daytona Beach's wide beach and smoothly packed sands at low tide were opened to drivers for many years. The beach was used for the high-speed testing and racing of motorcycles and the newfangled “horseless carriages”. This made the beach a mecca for racing enthusiasts. Fans enjoyed watching the events while standing on grass-covered sand dunes a short distance on-shore.
The first timed run on the beach was a solo run by Ransom E. Olds. In 1902, rich automobile pioneers Olds (Oldsmobile and REO Motor Car Company founder) and Alexander Winton (Winton Motor Carriage Company) staged an unofficial event at nearby Ormond Beach; Winton beat Olds by only 0.2 seconds. The first organized event was sanctioned and timed by the American Automobile Association in 1903. The weeklong "Winter Carnival" event was organized by the Ormond Hotel. The top speed was 68.198 miles per hour (mph).
The beach portion of the course became famous as the premier location to attempt to set the land speed record. The sanctioning body built a clubhouse in 1905 which was just over the line in Daytona Beach, so newspapers credited Daytona Beach as hosting the races. At least thirteen organized events were held between 1905 and 1935, and Daytona Beach quickly became synonymous with speed.
Fifteen land speed records were set at the site between January 24, 1905 and March 7, 1935. Drivers to set records at Daytona include Arthur MacDonald, Ralph DePalma, Henry Segrave, Ray Keech, and Sir Malcolm Campbell who set the last record of 276.82 mph. In 1935, drivers began using the more consistent surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The 500-feet-wide beach at Daytona was too narrow to accommodate the higher speeds.
Frank Lockhart won the 1926 Indianapolis 500 in his first race on a paved track. Lockhart regularly set records at every track he went to, so he decided to attempt a new land speed record. He set a new record of 174 mph with one of his 91 cubic inch engines at Muroc Dry Lakes. He decided to install both of his 91 cubic inch engines to make an attempt for the 122 to 183 cubic inch record. On April 25 1928, he easily broke the existing record by running 198.29 mph. On his return run he blew a tire on a sharp object and his Stutz-built "Blackhawk Special" flew in the air, killing Lockhart.
On March 11 1929, Henry Segrave set the world speed record at 231.44 mph, beating Ray Keech's record set in 1928 in the Triplex. Triplex, its owner J. M. White, and Keech were on hand. White approached Keech to make an attempt to get the record back, but Keech declined. White found Daytonan Lee Bible to attempt to break the new record in the Triplex. Bible took practice runs and then a run for the record. Something went wrong in his second attempt, and the 1500 horsepower Triplex swerved. The machine rolled, throwing Bible to his death. The Triplex then flew into cameraman Charles Traub, who died instantly too.
Beach & road courseEdit
The course started at the north turn on the pavement of highway A1A (at 4511 South Atlantic Avenue where a restaurant now stands), went south two miles on A1A (parallel to the ocean) to the end of the road, where the drivers accessed the beach at the Beach Street approach (the south turn), went two miles north on the sandy beach surface, and turned away from the beach at the north turn. The lap length in early events was 3.2 miles, and it was lengthened to 4.2 miles in the late 1940s.
Daytona Beach officials asked local racer Sig Haugdahl to organize and promote an automobile race along the 3.2 mile course in 1936. Haugdahl is credited for designing the track. The city posted a $5,000 purse. The ticket-takers arrived at the event to find thousands of fans already at the track. The sandy turns became virtually impassible, which caused numerous scoring disputes and technical protests. The event was stopped after 75 of 78 laps. Milt Marion was declared the winner by the AAA (the sanctioning body). Second place finisher Ben Shaw and third place finisher Tommy Elmore protested the results, but their appeal was overturned. France finished fifth in the event. The city lost a reported $22,000, and has not promoted an event since.
Haugdahl talked with France, and they talked the Daytona Beach Elks Club to host another event in 1937. The event was more successful, but still lost money. Haugdahl didn't promote any more events.
France took over the job of running the course in 1938. There were two events in 1938. Danny Murphy beat France in the July event. France beat Lloyd Moody and Pig Ridings to win the Labor Day weekend event.
There were three races in 1939. There were three races in 1940. France finished fourth in March, first in July, and sixth in September.
Lloyd Seay finished fourth in the July 27 1941 event after rolling twice. He returned on August 24 that year to win the event. He was killed by a family member in a dispute over the family moonshine business.
France was busy planning the 1942 event, until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. France spent the World War II working at the Daytona Boat Works. Most racing stopped until after the war. Car racing returned to the track in 1946.
France knew that promoters needed to organize their efforts. Drivers were frequently victimized by unscrupulous promoters who would leave events with all the money before drivers were paid. On December 14 1947 France began talks at the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel at Daytona Beach, Florida that ended with the formation of NASCAR on February 21 1948. The Daytona Beach Road Course hosted the premiere event of the fledgling series until Darlington Speedway was completed in 1950.
NASCAR race resultsEdit
The first NASCAR Strictly Stock (now Sprint Cup) race was held in 1949 at the Charlotte Speedway. The second race on the series schedule was held at Daytona Beach. 28 cars raced, including Curtis Turner, Buck Baker, Bob Flock, Fonty Flock, Marshall Teague, Herb Thomas, and second place finisher Tim Flock. Red Byron won for his fourth win at the track in the decade. Byron went on to win the series’ first championship in his 1949 Oldsmobile.
1950 The Strictly Stock series was renamed the Grand National Series. Harold Kite won the race in a 1949 Lincoln. He took the lead on lap 25 when Red Byron pitted with gear shift problems. Kite led the rest of the way. Byron surged from seventh to finish second.
Marshall Teague made it two in a row in his 1952 Hudson. Teague gained the lead on lap two. The race was shortened by two laps because of an incoming tide. Teague won by 1 minute and 21 seconds over Herb Thomas.
Polesitter Bob Pronger and second place starter Fonty Flock had a bet as to who would lead the first lap. They both raced wildly into the north corner. Pronger went too fast into corner, and wrecked his car. Flock had over a one minute lead in the race, but ran out of gas taking the white flag at the start of the final lap. Flock’s teammate pushed his car into the pits. Bill Blair passed to win the race in a 1953 Oldsmobile. Flock finished second by 26 seconds.
136 cars started the NASCAR Modified/Sportsman race that year, making it the largest field ever in any NASCAR sanctioned event.
Tim Flock finished the 1954 event first, but was disqualified on a minor technicality. Second place finisher Lee Petty edged out Buck Baker, and Petty was declared the winner of the 160-mile contest. Flock became the first driver to have radio contact with his crew.
The 1955 race was won by Fireball Roberts. He was later disqualified, so the official win went to Tim Flock. Roberts was disqualified after NASCAR’s tech director found pushrods that were 0.016 inches too long.
Tim Flock won his second consecutive Daytona race from the pole in his 1956 Chrysler. The car was owned by legendary NASCAR car owner Carl Kiekhaefer. He led every lap except for the four after his first pit stop. Charlie Scott became the first African-American to compete in a NASCAR Grand National race.
Cotton Owens moved from his third place starting position to lead the first lap. Paul Goldsmith took the lead briefly after 40 miles (of 160 miles). Goldsmith took the lead back from Owens after Owens pitted after 94 miles. Goldsmith’s quick pit stop gave him a lead that he maintained until he went out with a blown piston with 36 miles left in the race. Owens led the rest of the way for his first career win. The win was the first NASCAR win for Pontiac, and the first Grand National race speed average over 100 mph (101.541 mph).
Paul Goldsmith started from the pole to win the final event at the course. He drove a Pontiac which was prepared by Smokey Yunick. Curtis Turner finished second, Jack Smith third, Joe Weatherly fourth. Lee Petty, Buck Baker, Fireball Roberts, and Cotton Owens finished in the top ten.
End of courseEdit
By 1953, France knew it was time for a permanent track to hold the large crowds that were gathering for races. Hotels were popping up all along the beachfront. On April 4 1953, France proposed a new superspeedway called Daytona International Speedway. France began building a new 2.5 mile superspeedway in 1956 to host the new premiere event of the series – the Daytona 500. In 1958, the Daytona Beach road course hosted its last event. The first Daytona 500 was held in 1959.
- Website about the beach
- Daytona Beach land speed record history
- History of the Daytona Beach shore
- Bill France, Jr.'s account of races at the track
- NASCAR track stats
- NASCAR track statistics at racing-reference.com
- Account of the 1957 Daytona race from winner cottonowens.com
- Lee Bible’s tragic death
- Speed TV article on Daytona’s history
- Profile of Ormond Beach’s racing history