This week, NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400. Since we already gave you our Daytona tailgating Fast Facts, this time around we’re looking at the racetrack itself. Here are five tidbits you might not know.
Daytona is NASCAR’s best-known track, but it can also trace its origins all the way back to the godfather of the sport. NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. is credited as the architect of Daytona, coming up with the idea in 1953, when his still-growing sport (it was only five years old!) was still racing at the Daytona Beach Road Course. France teamed with engineer Charles Moneypenny to design the track, which broke ground in 1957 and officially opened in 1959. Moneypenny went on to design Talladega and Michigan, too.
Daytona might have decades of history, but some other NASCAR tracks came before it. Richmond International Raceway opened in 1946, then Martinsville Speedway in 1947 and Darlington came aboard in 1950. The big winner in the age game, of course, is the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which broke ground in March 1909 and opened in August that same year.
Everyone knows about Lake Lloyd, the body of water created in the Daytona infield when construction crews had to remove dirt to create the track’s high banking. But you might not know that the lake has been home to some 65,000 fish. Naturally, a fishing tournament and speedboat races followed. According to Yahoo! Sports, the legendary Dale Earnhardt fished there in the 1990s.
Looking at NASCAR’s tri-oval, you might find it hard to believe that Daytona has held both high school and college football games. It was briefly the home turf of the Father Lopez Catholic High School Green Wave in 1959 and hosted four games for the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats in 1974 and 1975. Last year, Sports Illustrated reported that track officials were interested in bringing college football back to the track.
NASCAR fans are quite familiar with the Sprint Fanzone, the series title sponsor-branded area that allows race crowds the opportunity to check out race team activity, get autographs and enjoy other live entertainment. Daytona launched the very first Sprint Fanzone, and its success prompted Las Vegas and Kansas to get their own. So if you’ve ever enjoyed a Fanzone experience, you can thank Daytona.
The Coke Zero 400 takes place at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, July 5 at 7:45 p.m. ET.