Daytona Beach Road Course
|Location||Daytona Beach, Ponce Inlet, Daytona Beach Shores, Florida|
|Closed||February 23, 1958|
|Major events||No Major Events|
|Length||3.1 to 4.2 mi (5.0 to 6.7 km)|
The Daytona Beach Road Course was a race track that was instrumental in the formation of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR. It originally became famous as the location where fifteen world land speed records were set.
Beach & road course
The course started on the pavement of highway A1A (at 4511 South Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet ). A restaurant named "Racing's North Turn" now stands at that location. It went south two miles (3 km) parallel to the ocean on A1A (S. Atlantic Ave) to the end of the road, where the drivers accessed the beach at the south turn at the Beach Street approach , returned two miles (3 km) north on the sandy beach surface, and returned to A1A at the north turn. The lap length in early events was 3.2 miles (5.1 km), and it was lengthened to 4.2 miles (6.8 km) in the late 1940s. In the video game NASCAR Thunder 2004 by EA Sports, the course is shortened to about half its distance, but still shows how the basic course was set up.
March 29, 1927 Major Henry Segrave and his Sunbeam 1000 hp Mystery set a world land speed record on the Daytona Beach Road Course, at 203.79 mph (327.97 km/h), peaking at a top speed of 211 mph.
Washington D.C. resident William France Sr. was familiar with the history of Daytona. He moved there in 1935 to escape the Great Depression and he set up a car repair shop.
Daytona Beach officials asked local racer Sig Haugdahl to organize and promote an automobile race along the 3.2-mile (5.1 km) course in 1936. Haugdahl is credited for designing the track. The city posted a $5,000 purse. The ticket-takers arrived at the event on March 8 to find thousands of fans already at the track. The sandy turns became virtually impassable, 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 that year. Danny Murphy beat France in the July event, which made $200. France beat Lloyd Moody and Pig Ridings to win the Labor Day weekend event, this time making $20,000.
There were three races in 1939 and 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.
Roy Hall won on the course several times.
France was busy planning the 1942 event, until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. France spent 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 results
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 in July. 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.
The Strictly Stock series was renamed the Grand National Series. The race is moved to February, which becomes a tradition still held to this day with the modern Daytona 500. 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. A second race is added to the weekend, the 100-mile (160 km) Modified Stock race, the day before. Gober Sosebee wins.
Marshall Teague glided his 1951 Fabulous Hudson Hornet into victory lane for his first career victory. He beat Tim Flock by 1 minute and 14 seconds. Gober Sosebee wins the Modified Stock race for the second year in a row.
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. A day earlier, Tim Flock wins the Modified/Sportsmen race.
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 100-mile (160 km) Modified/Sportsman race that year, making it the largest field ever in any NASCAR sanctioned event. Cotton Owens is the victor.
The "Speedweeks" weekend is expanded to three events, the 100-mile (160 km) Sportsmen race, the 125-mile (201 km) Modified race, and the 160-mile (260 km) main event. Dick Joslin and Cotten Owens win the preliminaries, respectively. Tim Flock finished the main 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 (260 km) 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 (0.41 mm) 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, driving another Carl Kiekhaefer entered Chrysler.
The three-race weekend is revised with new preliminary formats. The first race is a 125-mile (201 km) Modifield/Sportsmen race, and the second is a 160-mile (260 km) Late Model Convertible event. Tim Flock and Curtis Turner are the victors.
In the main event, 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 (151 km). Goldsmith’s quick pit stop gave him a lead that he maintained until he went out with a blown piston with 36 miles (58 km) 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 course
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 (4.0 km) 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. Daytona Speed Week on only the beach sand and not the adjoining road, continued however through 1961 with time /distance records for the standing mile and flying mile in multiple classes. The six fastest stock cars ever on the beach were the 1960 Chrysler 300F Specials.
- Orlando Sentinel; microfilm (1949–1958)
- Volusia County history
- New York Times, March 30th, 1927
- The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide 1998-99, Bill Fleischman and Al Pearce, 1999.
- "Sir Malcolm Campbell and William H. G. France". The Legacy of Speed. Volusia County Historic Preservation Board and the Volusia County Government. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Daytona Beach Road Course.|
- 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.info
- 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