Location Daytona Beach, Florida
Track Configuration 3.56-mile sports car course (incorporates tri-oval and non-banked infield section), 2.5-mile tri-oval Superspeedway, 2.95-mile motorcycle course, 0.25-mile oval dirt track
Facilities 480 acres, 180-acre infield area including 29-acre Lake Floyd, garages for 74 cars, 168,000 grandstand seating capacity, midway, museum, campgrounds, tram rides
Elevation Change Flat, 31-degree banking in the main oval corners and 18-degree banking in the tri-oval corner
Longest Straight 3,800 feet
Daytona International Raceway may be best known as the home of the roundy-round rodeo, but this multi-configuration facility is about a lot more than Ricky Bobby turning left. It's actually one of the busiest motorsports facilities in the world, hosting big-time races like the Rolex 24, Grand-Am 200 and AMA 200.
Having spent the last weekend of January every year for the last decade at Daytona for the Grand-Am 200 (season opener for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series), Karl Thomson from Compass360 Racing knows a thing or two about this world-famous circuit. He also knows a thing or two about winning, his C360R team having just repeated as ST class champions.
According to Karl, "The thing that gets you about Daytona is its presence. It's physically impressive, to be sure. Driving up to it, and then through the dual tunnels under corner 4 of the oval and out into the massive infield, it dawns on you: this place is immense. But it's more than the size of the place; it's the history of all of the truly epic races that have been run here, the man-to-man battle of wills and the almost unbelievable variety of exotic machines that have raced on the high banks. I've been at Daytona as a racer and a team owner for the better part of a decade, and I still get that feeling of awe when I first arrive each year.
"Despite this, I'd venture to say there aren't too many drivers who would put it on their list of top 5 road racing circuits. And that'd be a shame, because the racing that goes on here always proves to be tremendous. Maybe the racing is tight because it's a track that combines most of the NASCAR oval with an interior component, or maybe it's because it's not a traditional road racing circuit. Regardless, the first time you're on the banking, feel the force of gravity pulling you down into the driver's door, and realize that to see where you're going you have to look through your driver-side window, it's a rush like no other.
"One of the highlights of the track is heading across the start-finish line at top speed and diving down into turn 1, where you need to make a smooth transition from the banking to the infield and then brake much later than you thought possible before turn-in. You then carry a surprising amount of speed through turn 2, a fast right-left sequence at pit-out before braking for the hairpin turn 3. It's also easy to overcook it into the other infield hairpin at turn 5, and conversely you don't want to over-brake for turn 6, the left-hander that marks the end of the infield portion of the circuit.
"Then it's up through the gears on the banking and down toward the back straight and into the Bus Stop. This is an astonishingly fast part of the track that separates the men from the boys, and done properly gives you a great run into NASCAR corners 3 and 4 (or just turn 12 on the road course map), which in one of our cars you can treat like one long, single-apex corner. Start high by the outside wall and drop down to the 'apex' between these banked corners and then allow the car to run back out to the wall as the banking flattens out. Done right, in a little 2.0-liter Honda, you'll reach over 150 mph as you pass the checkered flag."
Speaking of taking the checkered flag, Compass360 Racing took the ST class win at Daytona last year, so be sure to watch for them at the front of the pack again at this year's 200-mile Grand-Am race.