What Is A Daytona Speedway? [Updated!]

The Daytona International Speedway is an American auto racing track, located in Daytona Beach, Florida (near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean). It is one of the world’s most famous and historic sports venues, having first opened its doors in 1947. Nicknamed “The Great American Speedway,” it is colloquially referred to as “Daytona” or “The Speedway.”

In addition to being the site of some of the most exciting races in the history of motorsport, the Daytona Speedway is also surrounded by a collection of unique and historical buildings. Perhaps the most recognizable among them are the ornate grandstands that rise above the banks of the famous beach. The grandstands, which are built in part of a Spanish-style design, were originally built for sports fans in Florida back in the early 1900s.

The Track’s Layout

Like many other American race tracks, the structure of the Daytona Speedway is based primarily on several factors. First of all, the site is above sea level, which means that it is subject to extreme weather conditions. In particular, it gets hit by frequent and violent thunderstorms, which can damage property and injure people. To reduce the danger of severe natural disasters, the designers of the track sought ways to improve the overall resilience of the structure. To this end, they implemented a smart-concrete strategy, using a combination of fiberglas and steel girders, which support a clay-tiled, monocoque-style roof.

The Great American Speedway

The nickname “The Great American Speedway” has been applied to the Daytona since the very beginning. For years, the track was simply known as “The Speedway,” with little to distinguish it from other American race tracks. As time passed and the area around it started changing, the need for a specific name became apparent.

Among the various buildings and structures that make up this American sports venue, there is a 2.5-mile long oval track, which measures just over a quarter-mile wide. Around the track are 16 distinctive yellow-brick grandstands that stand in contrast to the sleek and modern look of the rest of the complex. The entire track is surrounded by a 3-mile long, two-lane main straight, which is also completely paved with brick and stone pavers.

The speedway is designed to hold both ordinary auto races and major NASCAR events. Besides the oval track, it also features a 2.5-mile long, road-type circuit and a 1.25-mile long, karting circuit. The track is also used for the prestigious Daytona 500, which is one of the world’s biggest and most famous sporting events.


When it comes to the design of the track, many people consider the seating capacity, which tops 140,000. However, the structure itself is also a work of art and a tribute to American craftsmanship. The designer of the track, Richard Petty, was clearly inspired by the sleek and modern art deco style of the 1930s, which was in vogue at the time.

The sleek art deco styling coupled with the massive size and seating capacity made the design of the speedway a triumph of modern architecture. The streamlined design of the grandstands blends perfectly with the streamlined aerodynamic look of the cars that race on the track, giving the entire complex a thoroughly modern and stylish look.


The opening of the Daytona Speedway in 1947 was the culmination of more than a decade of effort by a small crew of visionary and talented men. The project was originally conceived as a private venture, with the main intention of using the site to host car shows and races for vintage cars.

The founding members of the group were Richard Petty, Billy Clyde Hinton, Max Boyd, and John T. Shaffer. They envisioned a combination of old-fashioned carnivals, with sideshows and concessionaires offering all manner of food and drink. They also wanted to establish a safe and family-friendly environment for their spectators. In a similar vein, they sought to create an atmosphere akin to what one would find at a traditional English race track.

The group worked hard to make their dream a reality. They scraped together whatever funding they could, and worked tirelessly to secure the necessary licenses. Once all the legalities were settled to their satisfaction, construction started in earnest. The first cars rolled off the assembly line at Ford in mid-1947, with the first official race held on October 17 of that year. That was the inaugural edition of the famous Daytona 500, with the track’s name being commemorated in the title of the race.

The entire project was still in its early stages when the stock market crashed in October 1929, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. The economic downturn forced the original group to reevaluate their plans. They eventually decided to carry on with the project, albeit on a smaller scale. They also decided to scrap most of the concessionaires and sideshows, replacing them with more traditional race-related attractions.

The group established a NASCAR branch office at the site in 1951, which evolved into a full-fledged research and development facility in 1952. The following year, the track got its first international race, with the French Grand Prix being the first major event hosted by the speedway. Additional international competitions followed, with the track hosting the European Grand Prix in 1957, the Austrian Grand Prix in 1958, and the Japanese Grand Prix in 1960. Hosting the European Grand Prix was especially significant, as it was the forerunner to the construction of the E-Ring, a sports and cultural complex, which was completed in 1964.

The E-Ring

The E-Ring is a massive and remarkable athletics complex, located in the middle of the great American speedway. The four-sided, elliptical structure was designed by the German architect Manfred Hermann Fellgiebel, and its shape was inspired by NASA’s newly developed Apollo spacecraft. The ring is named after the first German-made earth satellite, which was launched in 1964.

When the space program was revived in the 1960s, NASA made it a priority to build a domestic space station. The structure’s unique four-sided shape, coupled with its seamless integration of glass and steel, clearly recalls the futuristic look of the American space program at the time. The complex is also made entirely from concrete (with a small amount of steel reinforcing) and has minimal external decoration. However, an amazing amount of artistry was put into the interior of the structure, which is clad in brilliant white marble.

The E-Ring, which is open to the public, is made up of four competition halls, a theatre, a lecture hall, and a restaurant. The complex also features a speedway-themed shopping mall, which was the first of its kind when it was constructed. The rest of the structure’s flooring was designed to look like a road surface and are made of compacted earth, while the roof is covered in terrazzo.

The E-Ring’s floor plan, which is arranged in a perfect four-sided shape, is a nod to the original layout of the Daytona Speedway. It also incorporates aspects of the famous Sydney Opera House into its design.


In its early years, the great American Speedway, like many other sports venues, struggled to attract fans. The cost of building and maintaining the structure was high, so it became popularly known as a “rich man’s sport.” The situation improved in the 1970s, as the Vietnam War sent young men and women to their graves, lowering the overall birth rate and causing a corresponding rise in the number of elderly citizens. As a result, more and more families started attending sporting events, especially ones involving their children or grandchildren. Life in general became less expensive, with gasoline prices peaking in mid-1973 at an astounding $1.29 a gallon. Not surprisingly, fans started showing up at the races, with overall attendance reaching its highest point in 1973, with just under 500,000 people attending the various events held at the speedway that year.

Aside from its size, the other remarkable thing about the great American Speedway is its capacity. The structure can hold up to 140,000 in relative comfort. That is quite a feat, considering that it was originally designed for cars, not people. The seating layout of the speedway, which is laid out in an “egg-shape,” prevents any undue crowding. In addition, the whole place is surrounded by a moat (more precisely, a drainage system that empties directly into the sea), which was intended to keep spectators at a safe distance from any accidents that might occur on the track. This was a common problem in the days before seatbelts and roll cages, when drivers were used to flying fences and flipping cars all the time.

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