High Speed, Low Tide
Daytona first became known for speed around the turn of the 20th century.
In 1902, Ransom E. Olds ran the fist speed trail down Daytona’s sands, recording a speed of around 50 miles an hour.
That run begat a love affair between modern speedsters and Daytona Beach. Drivers came from all over the country determined to race and to beat the beach. Most came down to try to better world records, finding the hard packed sands almost ideal for speed runs, clocking through the famed Measured Mile in an attempt to write their names in the record books.
There were other kinds of races held at Daytona back then too.
Pete Craig, of Gainesville, Georgia, was one of the first known members of The Georgia Gang to travel south to Daytona. Craig, a newspaper reporter for the Atlanta Journal, would race several times at Daytona. On June 11, 1926, Craig won a 10-mile dash on the beach in his Chrysler 60. So far, that makes him the earliest known Georgian to win on at Daytona. He would not be the last.
When the speed trials left Daytona after 1935, the city scrambled for something to replace the annual event, which had brought a lot of revenue into the city.
The decision was made to organize a “stock car race”, to be held on the beach in 1936. The stock car class had actually been around in various forms since around 1910, but bore little resemblance to the types of cars that would evolve into modern stock car racing.
That was the case with the early Daytona events as well, with most of the cars starting being roadsters rather than the coupes and sedans that would make up the stock car scene just two years later.
Over the next four years, the city of Daytona Beach and promoter Bill France, Sr. would work to carve out a niche for the beach races. The events were run on a combination of the beach and Highway A1A, which ran alongside. There were several configurations, but the most common was a two mile stretch south down A1A and a two mile stretch north on the beach.
The beach races really began to come into their own around 1940. It just so happens that was the year the Georgia Gang came to Daytona to take on the beach.