February may be the month for sweethearts, but in Daytona Beach, it’s the month for race lovers. The Daytona 500 takes place February 26 at the Daytona International Speedway, with Speedweeks events beginning on the 18th.
The Speedway is the world's first motorsports stadium, and has been the site of the Daytona 500 since it hosted the first race in 1959. The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s most notable event of the year, and opens the season for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The Speedway is open every day for tours to the public. Visitors get a panoramic view of the track and the 31-degree, high banked turns from the grandstand area. Post tour, guests can purchase clothing and souvenirs in the gift shop, or test their racing skills at the video game arcade. Don’t miss the Motorsports Hall of Fame, located within the Speedway. This 10,000-square-foot building houses displays that pay homage to all forms of motorsports. Sports cars, motorcycles, drag racing, power boating and aviation are all represented. You’ll also spy Dale Earnhardt’s stock car, Bobby Rahal’s Indy car and Denny Hamlin’s winning car from the 2016 Daytona 500.
Starting of race in front of original hotel, The Clarendon
Daytona Beach has become synonymous with racing since Major Henry Segrave recorded his final speed record on the area’s packed sand beaches. Driving on the beach in Daytona has been a tradition that dates back even before Henry Segrave set his record on March 11, 1929. The first motorcycle and automobile races took place in the early 1900s. The ease of driving on the wide, hard-packed sands and the convenience of having your car close by was definitely a novelty.
The original Plaza Resort and Spa (then named the Clarendon) was the hub of activity for adventure seekers both on and off the sand.
Hotel management and local leaders hired well-known airplane mogul and pilot Glenn Curtiss to perform flying exhibitions on the hotel beach as a tourist attraction. Curtiss and other prominent pilots like John A.D. McCurdy and the Wright Brothers performed similar exhibitions throughout the county.
Hotel guests enjoyed exhibitions and airplane rides until the early 1920s. One notable pilot, Ruth Bancroft Law, was the first woman to pilot a plane in Florida. She was also the first woman in the world to loop an airplane. This historic event took place right in front of the hotel.
Also in February, the Dirt Car Nationals take place at the Volusia Speedway Park. Other Daytona races to check out include the Bike Week motorcycle races (March 10-19) and the Coke Zero 400 (June 30-July 2).
Whether you visit the Daytona Beach area for the racing or for the bountiful other diversions here, let the Plaza Resort & Spa be your home base for all your Daytona Beach activities.