Wednesday, February 12, 2003
The world of racing evolves
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF REPORT
DAYTONA BEACH — “In the beginning, there was the beach. The beach that would become the World´s Most Famous Beach because you could drive on it and because men raced on it. The challenge of speed became a quest, which continues to this day in an immense thunder-bowl of asphalt on the western side of town, several miles from the beach, where it all began.” (Daytona: The Quest For Speed)
There are 23 miles of sand and surf that stretch from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet, known as The World´s Most Famous Beach. It´s not a frivolous nickname, but one earned across the sands of time -- a century to be exact.
People have been drawn to this beach for 100 years, searching for something more powerful than the waves that wash upon the hard-packed shore -- something that has driven these men and women to the brink in their quest for speed.
It all began in 1903, when sportsmen brought their machines to Ormond Beach and sought speed records never before imagined. But that was just the beginning. It ignited the evolution of a sport that spanned the 20th century and burst into the 21st. Technology drove the stakes higher and made for more fierce competition. All the while drawing masses of spectators from across the globe.
Competing for the land speed record led to barrel races, which led to beach/road races -- which finally led to the Mecca of stock-car racing -- Daytona International Speedway. Names like Sir Malcolm Campbell, Ralph DePalma, Major Henry Segrave, Bill France Sr. and Jr., Smokey Yunick, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. All of them stir up images of fast cars...and the World´s Most Famous Beach.
As Ormond and Daytona gear up for their centennial of auto racing celebration, The News-Journal joins in to dedicate this year´s Speed Weeks special sections to the sportsmen who have come here for the last hundred years with hopes of taming the sand -- and asphalt.