What really gets race fans and drivers going are the cars. It is all about the automobile. These fourwheeled gasoline driven machines changed this country and the world. Going to the store for supplies went from an all day trip to just a few minutes thanks to the car. For the first time people could quickly travel hundreds of miles to visit family and friends or just to take a drive.
A new world was at our finger tips and with it came a new addiction, Speed. Not long after automobiles became available to the masses we wanted to go fast. Speed became king, the thrill and excitement of going fast is part of our deep seeded desire to feel good.
Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Trail from the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky during the 1800's by walking slowly. What would Boone think if he were here today standing beside the backstretch at Talladega with a freightrain of cars blasting by at 200 miles per hour. He would be amazed and in awe as we are of him being a legendary frontiersman.
The love affair with cars is part of the fabric of our society and our desire for speed will never go away. From Indianapolis to the sandy Florida beaches a young William France's desire for going fast started a dream and a vision to create a world of speed never before seen. His idea to build a curved ribbon of ashpalt would surely come true as France knew the legend of Indianapolis very well and had an idea on how improve it. Race tracks were very popular at the beginning of the 20th century from the famed speedway in Indiana to the much smaller high banked wooden speed bowls and dirt tracks that dotted the country at the time. This knowledge gave France the motivation to create something that would change the face of motorsports forever.
Bill France decided to do something completely different. Why not build a track as big as Indianapolis but with steeply banked turns similar to the wooden tracks that were prevalent early in the century. The same cars that were in everyones driveway would be running on the high banked Super Speedway. Daytona truly is the birthplace of speed as Big Bill France accomplished the smooth transition from having automobiles race on the same beach where the first land speed records were established to the opening of Daytona International Speedway in 1959. The age of the Super Speedway was about to take center stage.
The American Muscle car was born on Daytona's sprawling two and a half mile tri oval and our love affair with the car had now reached a fever pitch. The sparkling new Daytona Speedway grabbed everyone's attention from the best Indianapolis racing drivers to auto manufactures that wanted their cars and engines to be showcased and of the homegrown drivers that were cutting their teeth on the bull rings. Daytona was it. The inception of Darlington Raceway gave a little taste of speed but Daytona was different. With it's long straight aways and steeply banked turns a car could negotiate the entire circuit at close to full throttle. For a driver to run on Daytona's high banks meant that he was one of the fastest men on wheels.
Daytona singlehandedly changed the way that racing cars and engines were built due to it's unique layout. The big track changed everything. No one had ever gone this fast before on a closed circuit in something very close to a production car. It would take several years for the stock cars to reach Daytona's potential. Within ten years of the first Daytona 500 qualifying speeds increased by almost 50 mph as men and their machines continued the search for speed. The high banked super track enticed engine manufactures and builders to produce more power but the introduction of the HEMI engine in 1964 forced the competitors to rethink every aspect of navigating this track. The cars could not handle the powerful engines requiring better wheels and tires, and stronger chassis to handle loads created by the steep banks.
The Muscle car and the Superspeedway were in their renaissance during the late 60's with beefed up factory production models ripping around Daytona at over 180mph. For the real speed junkies the love affair with Daytona and the addiction to speed was in full force with some of the greatest racing drivers in history gracing Daytona's hallowed banks. Where else could you see the same car that you drove or could buy hammer Daytona's Superspeedway at blinding speeds. The sweetest of addictions is to go fast and Daytona filled that desire perfectly.
Big Bill France Sr. also had the addiction and his dream coming true gave us something we may never see again but we will always have our love affair with speed and with the real Hot Rod.
November 5, 1967 - Western North Carolina 500
5 weeks ago