“Gentlemen start your engines” those four words excite race fans everywhere. We here in Florida are lucky to have several venues where those words are spoken but none more famously crowd pleasing then our own Daytona Speedway.
Daytona Speedway has many different kinds of races throughout the year for many different kinds of race fans. Bike Week and Biketoberfest, held in the winter and fall respectively, feature mostly motorcycle races and shows; then in the winter again Speed Week happens and other popular races such as the Rolex 24 hour race and the Daytona 500 are run.
Now, NASCAR was born from stock car racing which was born from boot legging in the Appalachians during prohibition. Bootleggers, as they were called, needed fast car to outrun the cops as they made their deliveries, many drivers did their own modification to their cars to increase the cars speed and handling. It all started back in 1947 when a gentleman named William France Sr. and some friends founded a small organization they called NASCAR.
When prohibition ended in 1933 the need for bootleggers dried up but some of these guys came to love the speed and excitement of driving down twisty mountain roads. They continued to work on and improve their cars and by the late 1940’s the races for bragging rights and money began. These races were held mostly in rural North Carolina run using modified street cars.
Daytona Beach didn’t sit idly by while all this was going on. In 1903 there was a historic race run between Ransom Olds and Alexander Winton on the beach here that started it all. Between 1905 and 1935 fifteen speed records were set and the Daytona Beach road course, as it came to be known, became a Mecca for racing enthusiasts. Daytona Beach became known as the place to set world speed records in the 1920s and 1930s,
In the 1920s and 1930s, Daytona Beach became known as the place to set world land speed records, supplanting France and Belgium as the preferred location for speed records, with 8 consecutive world records set between 1927 and 1935, Daytona Beach had become synonymous with fast cars.
These days Daytona still means speed no matter if you prefer motorcycles or cars. During Bike Week you can enjoy all sorts of weight class and engine size motorcycling races. In the fall they also have motor bike races, classes that you can sign up to take and exhibition and proto type motorcycles, both weeks feature amateur and pro series.
There are several events throughout the year that the Daytona International Speedway is known for, one such event is the Rolex 24. The Rolex 24 is a race that lasts 24 hours; teams of drivers take shifts behind the wheel and drive all day and night racing towards the finish line, I’ve been its fun. You wouldn’t think people would stay for the whole race but they do, there are fun things to do around the infield during the race to that helps.
Speed Week is another draw to the Speedway it’s the start of the ARCA series and NASCAR season. There are two events that kick off the season; first event is the ARCA series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, a 80 lap 200 mile race.
The Budweiser Shootout features top NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars racing around the 31-degree high banks. From there we go onto the biggie, the main event – The Daytona 500. There are two days of qualifying events for the Daytona 500, the first is just called Daytona 500 Qualifying where qualifying for the front row takes place. The second is the Gatorade Duel which consists of two 150-mile qualifying races that determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500.
There are also several truck races and events that take place during the week but theses are the main racing events. Then at week after the qualifying events the Daytona 500 is run. The Daytona 500 is run for 200 laps, 500 miles on the two and a half a mile long track of the Daytona International Speedway and it’s considered the biggest, richest and most prestigious race of the NASCAR series. Touted as “The Great American Race” families save of all year and make the week their traditional family vacation. I’ve been to the infield after Speed Week and have been amazed by all the things left behind, arm chairs, sofas and all sorts of other things, it’s an awesome sight.
Another fan favorite race is run on the 4th of July the Coke Zero 400 this is also a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race that is run for 160 laps, 400 miles. After the race they normally have fireworks and there are fun things for the whole family to do all day.
Pack those coolers, grab those ear plugs and race on down for some good old fashion family fun things to do in Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach is also one of the most popular Florida beaches to take a trip with beaches to drive on and plenty of lifeguards and people to watch.