Groundbreaking on "Daytona Rising" — a $375 million facelift at Daytona International Speedway — took place Friday morning, beginning a 2 1/2-year redevelopment of the fabled track’s front stretch.
It is expected to be completed in time for the 54th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2016.
Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp. (ISC) and the granddaughter of NASCAR founder and DIS developer Bill France Sr., believes her grandfather and father Bill Jr. would have approved of the plan.
“They were such visionaries to start with that they would probably be able to think what this place should really look like for the next 50 years,” France Kennedy said.
“I’m sure hoping, but I’m thinking that they’d be awfully proud today.
“We recognize how many options our fans have for entertainment on a daily basis — they have so many choices — and it’s up to us to provide the absolute best experience for them. I feel that this new ‘Daytona Rising’ project is going to do just that.”
"Daytona Rising" is expected to provide the ultimate fan experience. Fans will instantly notice the difference, including five new entrances with escalators delivering them into 11 "social neighborhoods stretching more than a football field in length," with one main area representing a historical perspective in the World Center of Racing.
Within each neighborhood, there will be multiple video screens so fans never have to miss any of the on-track action.
Greg Biffle, who had the honor of excavating the first bit of ground, has remained a fan of the 2.5-mile track since his win here in 2003.
"My very first Cup win came at this place,” Biffle said. “That was exciting for me. It was an exciting time in my career, and I really, really enjoyed coming here every time.
“When I heard the announcement that they were going to do the renovation, what better place to have this kind of renovation — a historic place, and how new it’s going to be, and fresh. All the fan things that they’re going to do for it are pretty exciting."
Daytona Rising was part of a five-year capital improvement plan approved by the ISC board on June 18. It includes all 13 of the corporation’s tracks.
“This is the biggest project, the biggest investment our company has ever made,” said DIS president Joie Chitwood Jr.
“You think about what Daytona stands for — our brand, the birthplace of NASCAR — it’s only fitting that we look to the future of Daytona for this massive investment. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the fans and making sure they can enjoy this property for the next 50 years.”
Jeff Burton has competed at Daytona for the last two decades. He won this race in 2000 and has always enjoyed the Daytona experience. Burton believes that investing in the fans’ comforts and needs will benefit the sport down the road.
“We have a great sport, but we also have to do things above and beyond a little bit for our fans and make sure our fans have the amenities that they expect and make it enjoyable to come to a race,” Burton said.
“A race is more than just coming to see a race. It’s a full-day thing. That’s what kind of separates our sport from others in many ways. You go to a football game and it’s a football game. Here, every week, it’s like the Super Bowl with all the stuff going on. So it’s really important to have stuff that the fans like to do.”
Although France Kennedy wasn’t born when the 2.5-mile track made its debut in 1959, it’s always been her home track. Throughout all the transitions that have occurred over the last 54 years, France Kennedy remains “proud of the history and tradition” of Daytona.
“We are so, so fortunate to be able to build on the foundation of the Daytona International Speedway,” she said. "I just can’t wait for 2016 — I cannot wait. It’s going to be beyond belief. The plans and the designs are really exciting.”