If you ask the average person on the street to name a racetrack, the odds are pretty stacked that Daytona International Speedway will be at the top or near the top of the list. For the 2021 NASA National Championships Presented by Toyo Tires, Daytona also will be at the top of the list for NASA drivers across the country as the Championships will call this legendary track home for the first time ever.
The earliest speed contest held on Daytona Beach was in 1927 when Major Henry Seagrave set a world land-speed record with his Mystery racer by clocking a top speed of 203.79 mph. In 1936, local racer Sig Haugdahl put together a racecourse on the beach and the first competitive “stock car” race was held. Bill France, Sr. took over the operation of the event in 1938, and in 1947, France banded the racers together in an effort to establish a stable competition entity instead of relying on outside promoters to operate the event. That organization was called the National Association for Stock Car Racing or NASCAR as it is better known today. The races on the sand continued until 1959 when the newly built paved tri-oval hosted the first Daytona 500-mile race on its 31-degree banked corners. The complex has continued to grow and now includes more than 500 acres of world-class facilities with over 100,000 seats available for racing fans. The facility hosts many forms of motorsports every year as well as concerts, civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing, and police motorcycle training.
There are some flights directly to the local airport (DAB), which is right next to the track, but availability is limited to American Eagle and Delta during most times of the year. However, Daytona Beach is fairly close to Orlando (MCO) and Jacksonville (JAX) and there are many direct flights available to either airport. If you’re driving, the track is just off Interstate 95, which is a major north-south route for the East Coast.
Because Daytona is a major tourist destination, there are more than 200 hotels and nearly 12,000 rooms to choose from in the local area. You can find options for every price point and style of accommodation at https://www.daytonabeach.com/places-to-stay/ and there are also many VRBO-type rentals to check out. Your best bet is to stay as close as you can to the track so that you don’t get caught in beach traffic, but if you’re OK with planning your commute ahead of time, you can stay right on the beach and catch some sun when you’re not on track. If you do want to stay close to the track, the Daytona Hotel has some great memorabilia displays and the Home2 Suites by Hilton is also nearby.
There are many chain restaurants like BJ’s near the track if you want to get a beer or three with your crew, but there are also some excellent local spots to try. The Cracked Egg is a cool diner with attitude to get your day started if you aren’t planning on getting scattered, smothered and covered at the Waffle House. For the evening, Boondocks has great seafood, and make sure to order the fries to feed the fish like NASA Southeast Regional Director Jim Pantas did: https://www.facebook.com/jim.pantas/videos/10152895667778254.
There is also the Piraña Grill, which is biker bar with awesome food, the River Grille on the Tomoka for seafood with a view, and you can hit the Ocean Deck for a great bar that’s right on the ocean with live music most nights.
If you are looking to stroll a bit, behind The Daytona Hotel across the street from the track there is a large entertainment area with outdoor music, fountains, restaurants, and a variety of shops with loads of parking available. Other local points of interest are Volusia Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, and the Downwind Cafe in Port Orange where you can sit on the patio and watch planes land or taxi from their home hangars.
Even though you can still drive on the original sand surface on Daytona Beach, the real action will be at the tri-oval speedway. Daytona hosts the 500-mile NASCAR race using just the banked oval track, but for the NASA Championships, the racers will have to challenge the “roval” course used by IMSA, AMA, and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
The course features very high speeds on the oval portions along with challenging turns in the infield sections such as the infamous Bus Stop zig-zag which is tough to master and the International Horseshoe, which forces drivers down into a low gear as they grind through the turn’s tight apex.
NASA will have multiple vendors onsite to help with tire service and other needs, but there are plentiful options for local auto parts shops and dealerships in the area when parts break. There are also many supermarkets, drug stores, and big box retailers near the track should you find that you forgot to pack any essentials.
You can find more information online at www.nasachampionships.com as the event draws closer but this is for sure a can’t-miss event on the NASA calendar for 2021.
Daytona International Speedway
1801 W. International Speedway Blvd.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
The Cracked Egg
3280 S. Atlantic Ave. D
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118
Ormond Beach, FL 32174
3948 S Peninsula Dr.
Port Orange, FL 32127
River Grille on the Tomoka
950 U.S. 1
Ormond Beach, FL 32174
127 S Ocean Ave.
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
100 Cessna Blvd.
Port Orange, FL 32128