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Racing and Controversy Eternally Linked

How often do you hear auto racing fans lament the way things were? How often do you hear a fan state that back in their day (whether it was the 1950s or the 1990s) the racing was better and more pure? How often do you hear that racing was better before it was destroyed by the struggles, commercialism, and controversies of today?

While Henry Ford is credited with saying the first racing began when the second car was made, we can likely assume that the first racing controversies also began with that first race. Spend some time on the new and you will find that today’s racing world is eerily similar to the earliest days of racing. In the early 1900s going 120 mph seemed unfathomable, but other than how fast (or slow) the cars were going, not much else has changed. is a new website that tracks the history of the earliest days of auto racing occurring on the beaches of Ormond-Daytona, FL. The site takes you back in time to watch the annual tournament unfold, introduces you to the men who made the racing possible, and highlights some of the earliest racing stars.

The site was built from original news articles, published in papers from Florida to New York, and beyond and accessed from the Library of Congress Chronicling America database.

As you steer through the site you’ll find that for as long as cars have raced, racers have continuously sought to make the cars go faster. With that objective in mind racers have modified their cars to the point of challenging the definition of what is a stock car. Fans, drivers, and organizers have been arguing for over a century on at what point a car ceased to be a stock car.

As NASCAR currently seeks a new title sponsor, the organization can take heart in that the struggle for sponsorship has always existed. Even the earliest tournaments at Ormond-Daytona were only possible because of the contributions of local businesses and benefactors and when the races were nearly cancelled due to lack of support, businesses and racing enthusiasts chipped in, both large and smaller sums, to make the races happen.

Promoters have always struggled to schedule events that appeal to the largest possible crowd, and it’s never been all about the racing. In the days of the Ormond-Daytona tournament appealing to the crowds meant moving the tournament from January to March to accommodate car manufacturers and the annual auto show schedule. The organizers also grappled with which events to include on the schedule, including scheduling events that accommodated various classes of cars from pure stock cars to racing-specific machines, and what other events to include to increase attention, like airplane exhibitions, bicycle and motorcycle races, and parades. As a race weekend now is not all about the racing, early racing promoters also understood the need to appeal more broadly.

Auto racing today is not free from controversy and disagreement, but neither was racing in the early 1900s and that’s one of the most important things I learned in building

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