Martin Raffauf’s 2018 Daytona Notebook takes a comprehensive look at the whole Daytona race week. Martin has been going to Daytona in one form or another for 47 years, so one could say he is something of an expert on the race. Editor
The Daytona 24 Hours was first held in 1962. Well actually, the 24 Hour first ran in 1966, the first four races run being called the Continental and running three hours in 1962 and 1963, and 2000km in 1964. Dan Gurney won the inaugural event, followed by Pedro Rodriguez, and then Pedro and Phil Hill for the 2000km in 1964. In 1966, the race was lengthened to 24 hours, copying Le Mans. The first 24-hour event was won by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby in a Ford GT40 entered by Carroll Shelby (they also won the 1965 2000km event).
The race has continued to the current day, and is the only major 24-hour race in the United States. The track has changed slightly over the years, as it started as a 3.81-mile circuit comprised of 99% of the NASCAR banked oval, with an infield road course section. Over the years, the infield section has been modified slightly, and a chicane added on the back straight, so now the circuit length (road course) is 3.56 miles. It’s a very difficult race to win, the 31-degree NASCAR banking puts a big load on both suspensions, tyres, and drivers. In years gone by, they would sometimes start upwards of 80 cars in the race. Traffic was always an issue. They only start up to 60 cars now (due to circuit and garage area rework there are only 60 pits now). Lights have been added around the circuit, so it is not as dark at night as it was in days gone by. However, Daytona, due to the time of year it is run, races over 50% of the event in darkness (unlike Le Mans).
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