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Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, but the history of auto racing at Daytona goes back much farther than that.
In 1936, the precursor to today's Daytona 500 was born on a course that went down 1.5 miles of highway, then turned and came the same distance back up the beach.
William H.G. France, a mechanic and racer who'd moved south from Washington, D.C., eventually took over the job of running the beach races on the second of two courses used for those events. In 1947, he presided over a meeting at Daytona's Streamline Hotel where NASCAR was born.
A decade later, France began working on his showplace.
"Big Bill" France was building it, and he insisted on 31-degree banking in the corners. That's as steep as he could make the turns and still keep the machines putting down the asphalt from tipping over.
When drivers gathered for the first Daytona 500, it was an eye-popping experience. Drivers were more accustomed to half-mile dirt tracks and saw the 1.366-mile paved track at Darlington as vast. A trip around Daytona International Speedway was 2.5 miles -- nearly twice that.
Bob Welborn ran 140.121 mph to win the pole for the first Daytona 500, and Lee Petty won in a photo finish over Johnny Beauchamp.
It was at Daytona International Speedway where Junior Johnson discovered that if he tucked his car right behind another one, he could go faster than he could run by himself. And drafting became a part of the sport.
It was also at Daytona where Cale Yarborough topped 200 mph on his first qualifying lap in 1983 and then, as he went even faster on a second lap, his car took off and flew, turning upside down before crashing.
Bill Elliott set the Daytona track record in 1987, running 210.364 mph, just before restrictor plates were introduced to the sport.
The Daytona 500, considered NASCAR's biggest event, has hosted some of NASCAR's greatest moments -- and maybe its greatest tragedy.
Many considered the 1976 Daytona 500 as the greatest race of all time.
Richard Petty won seven Daytona 500s on his way to becoming "The King," but lost in '76 to rival David Pearson after they wrecked coming to the finish line and Pearson puttered across the stripe bumping his car along with his ignition.
In 1998, in his 20th try, seven-time Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500. Sadly, three years later, Earnhardt died in a Turn 4 crash in the 2001 running. It was a moment that changed the sport forever.
In addition to the Daytona 500, the track hosts the Pepsi 400 each July along with the Rolex 24, America's premier endurance race, and annual motorcycle races that are the centerpiece of Daytona's Bike Week.
Daytona International Speedway renovated its infield before the 2005 Daytona 500 to add a "Fan Zone" that allows fans to buy tickets giving them one of the best up-close views of a NASCAR garage and other special amenities.
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