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The history of Daytona Beach and NASCAR

Submitted by on January 30, 2012

For around six weeks, Daytona Beach, Florida is taken over by motorsport, its history growing by the year

The first event at Daytona International Speedway is the Rolex 24 Hours which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 at the end of January. Then there is a weekend off which allows the NFL Superbowl to take over the world on TV – then NASCAR comes to town. And after that the bikes and their fans arrive for Supercross. Then it’s the start of the AMA Pro Racing season on the road course, which still includes most of the track’s super-steep banking. That truly is for the guys with no imagination at all.

For those who have never been to Daytona International Speedway, add it to your list. The 24 Hours and the 500 are two totally different events in character, the bikes are just insane.

One thing that is permanently insane throughout is the infield. For the 24 Hours, motorhomes, caravans, tents, sofas and BBQs. It fills up quickly, and the party starts right then.

For the Daytona 500, the infield is again full – and so are the stands. So what is the draw of NASCAR? Well, here is how it all got started, which will give you an idea… It’s a racing series, that has its roots in a party.

Naturally not only has NASCAR changed immensely since the early days of racing on the Beach then, as have the facilities. The Speedway track, though used for the first time 50 years ago, not a huge amount. After the 24 Hours, the road course is reconfigured back to the four-turn oval-only, with its 31 degree banking.

The Daytona 500 has bred legends, from Junior Johnson, ‘Fireball’ Roberts, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allsion, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr, and of course many more. It also has fans worldwide, perhaps the most surreal being The Who’s rock legend Roger Daltry… It’s true!

Here is the singer’s take on NASCAR.

The party starts for NASCAR after the Superbowl with the Shootout, which takes place the week before the 500. That truly is a win-or-bust event, winner-takes-all. And if you thought The Who could rock n’roll, you ain’t seen anything until you hit Daytona’s infield with the race fans and their campers.

If you missed it, they do it again in July!

By Andy Hallbery follow me on twitter @hallbean

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