Row 2 Daytona: Charity Event Benefiting Lift Florida
Daytona International Speedway (DAY) is located in Daytona Beach, Florida. DAY was built in 1966 with a grand total cost of $1 million dollars. Today, it’s one of the most popular motorsports venues in the world and hosts over 200 races annually. Daytona International Speedway has been home to many famous drivers including NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. Daytona International Speedway is owned by IMSA, which stands for International Motor Sports Association. IMSA is a non-profit organization that promotes motor sports through its sanctioning body, the World Motorsport Council (WMC). The WMC organizes various racing series around the globe such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and other championships.
The first race at DAY was held on October 18th, 1967. The track was originally known as the “Hooters” circuit. The name change came after a local restaurant named Hooters opened up there. At the time, it was called the “Motor City Drag Strip”.
That’s how it got its original name. Since then, DAY has changed quite a bit. In 1968, DAY became part of the United States Grand Prix Association (UGPA), which later evolved into today’s IRLP (International Motor Racing League).
On July 2nd, 1982, the last race at DAY under the UGPA Association was held. The following day, work began to transform the track into a “banked” oval. This process costed around $12 million dollars and completely changed the landscape of the entire track. The addition of the turns and main straightaway made the track more like what we know today.
On February 18th, 1988, DAY finally opened under its new name: Daytona International Speedway.
We recommend you visit the page for racing events at DAY. One thing you should really do is get a pit pass if you can. This will allow you to go into the pits and see all of the different cars up close. That’s really where the action is at!
You have to see this speedway during a race weekend. The atmosphere and experience is something else entirely. You’ll see pit reporters in the infield interviewing drivers and team owners, team mechanics working on the cars, and of course the rich history of DAY as you walk around. The high banks and close proximity of the seats to the action really makes it a spectacle unlike any other.
You should definitely try to attend a race here if you haven’t yet. We have plenty of recommendations for great hotels near Daytona International Speedway.
Thanks for reading!
Recommended Hotels Near DAY
The first edition of the ”’Daytona”’ ”’500”’ was held on February 22nd, 1959 at the ”’Gaston”’ ”Speedway” and was one of the most anticipated races in the history of stock car racing. The race was scheduled for its usual full length of 200 laps or 500 miles. There were 36 drivers on the starting grid for this event, including all 28 drivers from the previous year’s race. Notable drivers include Lee Petty, Johnny Mantz and Buck Baker.
The race began with all the drivers circling the speedway for the first time, while NASCAR officials decided how to configure the starting line up. Eventually, they settled on using the former champ’s method of determining the order for the start of the race. This meant that Lee Petty, as the defending champion from last year, would get to choose whether he would start out in first position or whatever position he chose. After all the other drivers were lined up, it was determined that Lee would start the race in last place, and then each driver would have to pass every car in front of them to get to the front.
The green flag drops and all the cars take off in one large pack around the speedway for the first time. Little drama takes place during this first lap. By lap five, Lee Petty had moved up from last to twenty-first place and was starting to pass cars steadily. Johnny Mantz was leading the race by the seventh lap.
Mantz was a local favorite and driver of the number two black and gold Packard.
Mantz continued to lead the race through the thirteenth lap. At that time, a minor accident took place that eliminated two of the cars from the race. As the cars rounded the speedway, a white car (driven by Ed Housewright) got loose on the high banked turn four and spun out into a grassy area. The car then somehow managed to get back onto the track and directly into the path of an oncoming car.
The driver of the other car couldn’t avoid a collision and the two cars smacked into each other. The force of the impact flipped the white car in the air, clearing the top of the short fence that separated the track from the grandstands. It landed upside down on top of the fence, with its wheels spinning in the air.
The driver of the upside-down car was none other than Glen Wood. Wood was thrown from the car, but landed on a grassy area between the fence and the track. His brother, Atlanta Falcon’s coach Wayne Wood, was watching from the infield and ran out to help his brother. With help from other drivers who had also exited their cars, Glen Wood was pulled from harm’s way just as his car exploded into flames.
The two drivers that were involved in the original accident were pinned inside their cars and had to be cut out by track safety crews. All four drivers were rushed to Halifax Medical Center for treatment of their injuries. Glen Wood was the most seriously hurt and was given last rites by a priest.
The accident occurred right in front of where Sam Byrd was sitting in the grandstands with his family. He remembered the accident vividly even decades later. “The white car came sliding through the fence and landed just a few feet from where I was sitting,” he remembered. “If it had landed a few feet to either side, it would have wiped out the whole row of people.
It was really dangerous sitting that close to the track.”
Following the crash, Lee Petty had managed to work his way up to the fifth position and was now challenging Johnny Mantz for the lead. Meanwhile, further back in the pack, Junior Johnson was making his way through the field. By the 49th lap, he had moved into 12th place. He continued to move forward and was up to fourth place by the 56th lap.
Two laps later he was in third and starting to catch Lee Petty.
Weaving back and forth between the cars, Johnson managed to catch Petty just before a caution came out for oil on the track on lap 62. The crew’s service the cars during the caution. Each car was cleaned up and the drivers switched positions. Johnson was now in the lead, with second place Bill Ryan, third place Lee Petty and fourth place Herbert McLane.
The yellow flag lasted for eight laps. On the next to last lap of the caution, Johnny Mantz suddenly came into the pits with a shredded front tire. The crew changed it and he was sent back out, but had lost a lot of time and was a long ways behind the leaders.
The green flag dropped on lap 70. By the next time by, Johnson had built up a two and a half car length lead over Ryan. It looked like it was going to be an easy win for the young rookie until a tire went flat on lap 75. The right front tire had been slowly leaking air for several laps and finally gave way.
He limped his car into the pits and had it changed. He lost several minutes and fell back into the middle of the pack. He would charge back through the field, but the damage had been done and he would finish a disappointing 14th.
Meanwhile, Bill Ryan was dominating the race and easily won it by over four minutes. Young Lee Petty, in his first Daytona 500 came in second place. In fact, Junior Johnson was one of three rookies to finish in the top five (the others were Bob Welborn and Henry Woods).
The Great American Race had been run. NASCAR had another successful Daytona 500.
Bill France saw the potential for more success like this and he was ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. He was looking at the last page in his ledger: money.
In the next part of NASCAR’s History we look at Bill France’s solution to making it big, how it was received by some and fight that ensues.
You can read part one here.
The Racing Legends: Daytona 500 by Mike Helm
Racing’s Greatest Book: NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers by Steve Waid
ESPN Ultimate NASCAR Archives: The Complete History Of America’s Premier Auto Racing Championship by Mike Parker
NASCAR: The Definitive History Of America’s Premier Auto Sport by Geoffrey C. Edward
The NASCAR Chronicles: The History Of America’s Premier Auto Sport by Ed Olczyk and Mike Byrnes
The NASCAR Illustrated Encyclopedia By Steve Waid and Mike Helms
Wikipedia Pages for Various Drivers Mentioned
Fans of Old Time Racing
Sources & references used in this article: