Beach racing gone but not forgotten
By Joe Jennings -
Racing on the sand at Daytona Beach ended in
1958, but it has not been forgotten. During
Speedweeks each year, old-time racers and
supporters flock to the beach with their
restored cars and their memories to relive the
appeared on the beach for the Living Legends of
Racing parade. The
cars and drivers
took a leisurely drive on the hard-baked sand to
the delight of fans, tourists and friends of the
of former racers including Russ Truelove,
"Mad" Marion MacDonald,
Johnny Allen, Jim Vandiver, Marvin Panch, Junie
Donlavey, Jim Bray and others were on hand to
reminisce about the good old days.
In a bus
tour sponsored by NASCAR, the media received an
in-depth walk-through on the history of racing
in Daytona Beach. The buses drove by the
original home of Bill France, his
the hotel where France and others met to form
NASCAR, and other notable spots. The caravan
also stopped at the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse where
several restored cars were on display and
old-time drivers had congregated.
McKim, NASCAR's resident historian, led the tour
and accompanied by many of the legends, the tour
was very informative.
raced on the beach from 1936 to 1958. From 1936
to 1947, racing took place on a 3.2-mile course
that included the picturesque State Highway A1A
and the beach itself. In 1948, the course was
moved farther south and it was a more rigorous
4.1 miles in length. The turns at each end of
the courses were tight and the sand was often
Allen, 72, "It was hard to see because of the
sand and salt that was flying through the air.
The closer you were to the water the better off
you were. The best thing you could was to be
on the edge of the water (ocean) by just a hair.
Most of the time you had to lean your head out
the window to see where you were going."
also raced in the first Daytona 500, starting
last without benefit of practice time, he
successfully climbed to an 11th place finish.
83, is best remembered as a
driver and he said his cars came off the
showroom floor. "It was very exciting to race on
the beach," he said. Seagulls were everywhere
but they scattered once the races started. The
late Tim Flock (another legend) drove
convertibles on the beach and he told Truelove
the seagulls often dropped their calling cards
on the drivers.
Daytona 500 winner Marvin Panch also raced on
the beach three times. He observed, "Our biggest
problem is that you couldn't see where you were
going. We cut holes in our windshields as the
sand pitted them quickly." He also indicated the
corners were "like a plowed field."
Panch made the successful transition to the
2.5-mile oval, he said a greater concentration
level was needed on the banked track as the wind
moved the cars around so much. "It was like
flying an airplane; you had to keep it smooth,"
MacDonald worked in a
gas station owned by Bill France and as a
teenager he raced on the beach twice in the late
1930s. "It was fun in those days," MacDonald,
now 88, said. "We weren't racing then; we were
just having fun. I raced close to home and we
often had to steal gasoline to get home after a
involved had a great time talking with the
veteran drivers and looking at their restored
cars. A year from now, the stories should be
even better, which makes one and all look
forward to the 2008 reunion.
Thanks to Motorsport.com