Daytona Beach, Florida is known for many things. Among them is the expansive stretches of beach and one of motorsports’ most historic tracks, the Daytona International Speedway. Although these two things are separate now, they used to be one entity when vintage racers took to the sandy Daytona Beach Road Course for some classic hot rodding fun. With the Daytona 500 race taking place this past Monday, SpeedHunters has come up with several amazing vintage photos of the Daytona Beach races. Check some of them out below.
The Daytona Beach Road Course got its unofficial start back in 1902 when the founder of Oldsmobile and Reo Motor Car Company, Ransom E. Olds and the founder of Winston Motor Carriage Company, Alexander Winston staged a race at the Ormond Beach, just down the way from Daytona Beach. With the first organized event taking place at Ormond Beach in 1903, the sandy course became the premier location to chase down the land speed record.
In 1905, the sanctioning body for the Ormond Beach races built a clubhouse right at the edge of Daytona Beach. This caused local media to credit Daytona Beach with holding the races.
Between 1905 and 1935, at least 13 organized events took place on the beach and 15 land speed records were set, including the 276.82mph record set in 1935 by Sir Malcolm Campbell. Once speeds reached well over 200mph, the Bonneville Salt Flats became the choice course since Daytona Beach was too narrow for the higher speeds.
Haugdahl obliged and is credited with designing the course which ran down the highway and then looped back around on the sand of Daytona Beach.
Unfortunately the sandy turns of the course became almost impassable at the 1936 event and it was shut down after 72 of the 78 scheduled laps.
The city of Daytona Beach had posted a $5,000 purse for the race and ended up losing a reported $22,000. Daytona Beach decided not to promote any more events.
After another race in 1937 lost the sponsoring Daytona Beach Elks Club money as well, William France Sr. took over promoting and running the Daytona Beach racing events. In 1938, the two races held at the beach made money, $200 for the first and $20,000 for the second. After a couple more years of successful races at Daytona, the attack on Pearl Harbor came in 1942 and racing mostly came to a halt until 1946, when racing returned to the track after the war.
Once things were in full sing again, Daytona Beach was the place to be if you were into cars. The 3.2-mile course was expanded to 4.2 miles and brought armatures and legendary racers alike. It was also the place of origin for the NASCAR series, which was legally sanctioned on February 21st, 1948. NASCAR held its first event at the Daytona Road Course days before they were sanctioned an held races their until 1950 when the Darlington Speedway was finished.
By 1953, the Daytona Beach Race Course was being outgrown by the large crowds attending events and countless racers bargaining for time on the course. So France proposed plans for a permanent racecourse call the Daytona International Speedway.
In 1956, construction on the course began and was completed in time for the 1959 NASCAR premiere event- the first Daytona 500.
The demise of the Daytona Beach Road Course came a year earlier with the last event being held in 1958.
The Daytona Beach Road Course was a place of legends. Early stars like Red Byron, Buddy Shuman, Raymond Parks, Tim Flock, Bob Flock, Sam Rice, Wayne Pritchett and Betty Skelton all raced there and their racing careers were bettered because of it.
NASCAR, hot rodding and motorsports in general own Daytona Beach Road Course a lot for their beginnings. In a time when NASCAR racers represent only a few car makes and models, it is hard to see a resemblance between then and now, but world of motorsports wouldn’t be the same without racing on the sands of Daytona Beach.