Daytona International Speedway: A Brief History
For every passion, there’s a place that represents everything that draws people to it. Chocolate lovers have Hershey, PA, Elvis fans have Graceland, and NASCAR fanatics have Daytona International Speedway. Home to the association’s premier event, its history is almost as captivating as the race held there each February. Humble Beginnings In 1953, Bill France, Sr. envisioned a massive, thoroughly modern race track to showcase the challenge and excitement of stock car racing, which at the time was more of a “southern thing” than the international phenomenon it is today. France approached local architect Charles Moneypenney with his plan. Moneypenney journeyed to Detroit to visit the Ford Proving Grounds to get ideas for the new track. Ford engineers welcomed him, giving him access to their data, including information on how to build a raceway with high banked corners. Moneypenney reported back to France, who took the plans to the Daytona Beach City Commission.
The commissioners loved the idea and agreed to lease NASCAR 447 acres right next to Daytona Beach international Airport for $10,000 a year. France then went in search of venture capital. He got $600,000 from Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison, who also lent NASCAR the heavy equipment to build the facility. Famed GM designer Harley Earl also chipped in a few bucks, along with Pepsi and local Daytona residents who bought stock in the association. France also took out a second mortgage on his home to help finance the venture.
Construction started on November 25, 1957. Problems arose immediately due to the area’s high water table. As the crew dug out soil, the spot filled with water, eventually covering 29 acres. Ever the quick thinker, France christened the flooded area Lake Lloyd, stocked it with fish, and later held speedboat races on it.
Moneypenney brought in 22 tons of lime mortar to form a proper base, on which he poured asphalt. He anchored bulldozers at the top of the banks and attached paving equipment to them, in order to get the degree of incline his plans required. He later patented this method and went on to build Michigan International Speedway and Talladega Super Speedway as well.
By December 1958, France was running out of money to finance the project. He dipped into revenues from event sales and kept right on going. The speedway was completed in 1959 and hosted the first Daytona 500 on February 22 of that year.
NASCAR had its crowning jewel and fans had a place that stood for everything great about the sport.
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