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All Thanks to J.F. Hathaway

On Saturday night maybe Kyle Busch will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway and thank team owner Joe Gibbs. Or Brad Keselowski will win and thank Roger Penske and Ford Motor Company. Or maybe Chase Elliott will win and thank his father and Rick Hendrick. In victory, these drivers and their owners and crews will be etched into the Daytona racing history books. They will thank those who helped get them there.

None of them will thank J.F. Hathaway, but they should.

Daytona, FL or is nearly synonymous with American auto racing. Daytona International Speedway is nicknamed the World Center of Racing, which is as much a reality as it is a slogan. The operations of International Speedway Corporation and Daytona International Speedway are estimated to bring an economic impact of $1.6 billion annually to the state of Florida. None of this would have been possible without Hathaway.

In 1900 Hathaway is reported to have brought the first automobile to the Ormond-Daytona, FL area. Hathaway, a Massachusetts resident, brought the vehicle down on one of his annual winter visits to Florida. Within a few years the Florida beach area went from auto-less to the host of one of the most significant racing tournaments in the world.

Hatahway saw the potential in the beach surface for fast driving. With that vision, he was then instrumental in the formation of the Florida East Coast Automobile Association which presented the early tournaments. He also brought in W.J. Morgan, a New York promoter, who helped sell the beach racing to a public that still knew little about automobiles.

While many men contributed to the success of the early days of racing in Ormond-Daytona and many men and women continue to make racing possible in Daytona, Hathaway was the first. He was the visionary. He gave auto racing the push it needed to gain unstoppable momentum to race through the 20th century and beyond.

This weekend’s winner won’t thank Hathaway, but he (or she) owes him a piece of the credit.

Read more about Hathaway and the early days of Florida auto racing at

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