Daytona Memories 2024

Author’s Note: Please take a walk with me down memory lane to and see what it was like at my first 24 Hours at Daytona. Thank you.

While living in Orlando during 1960’s, I had opportunities to attend quite a few Daytona 500 races. I attended these races with friends that I worked with, one of whom was the local race track promoter. I worked in the concession stand at his track in addition to my regular job. It was an exciting time in my life. It became tradition to go to Daytona the day before the Daytona 500 so we could cruise around Daytona and drive by The Best Damn Garage in Town several times hoping to catch sight of Smokey Yunick and different drivers hanging around.

No one was allowed inside that garage without Smokey’s permission so we would just look as we drove by. Then it was on to the Steak ‘n Shake for food and to see who was there. After that it was back by Smokey’s garage and so the cycle went for hours until we returned to the track. I have lots of happy memories of Speed Weeks during that time.

My favorite memory is of the first 24-hour race at Daytona that I not only attended, but also experienced my very first camping trip during that same weekend. The year was 1966 and although there had been some endurance racing of lesser hours at Daytona prior to this, a 24-hour race at the track was something new. The promotions were exciting as drivers would be coming from all over the world it seemed.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Plans were formulated to make sure our group had one of the best camping and viewing spots in the huge infield. Tickets were purchased in advance and our camp spot was selected by the two track promoters who were part of the group. Food and drink were planned, prepared and packed along with items that would be needed for sleeping and personal upkeep. Six of us would be sharing one small pop-up trailer that had very little room. We would take turns sleeping and keeping the fire pit going. Along with many other campers, we had a small fire pit which was watched and tended constantly. We arrived a day before the race was scheduled to start.

That Friday night we visited a place called Club 92 which was across Hwy 17-92, not too far from the track. We talked with a few of drivers there, including assorted Grand National drivers. We were all very excited to be at this huge track with a road course incorporated into the big oval and part of the infield which was fenced off to accommodate many fans whether they would be camping or just parking their vehicles and sleeping in them. It was also very exciting to drive or walk around the infield and watch the race from different spots and have different views of how they were running the track.

There were a few scattered buildings which had food and restrooms. There was a newsroom which I believe served as a type of media center also. This building housed lots of land line telephones and teleprinters. Technology was not as advanced then as it is today, so news was not as readily available. The push button telephone which replaced the old rotary dial phones had only been available for three years. Now it is mostly cell phones that the reporters use. Back then one could get updated print outs of what cars were still running and their positions at certain intervals from the teleprinter.

This is how they handled the pits at night in the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona.

After watching many headlights during the night and finally falling asleep for a couple of hours, it was fun to wake up to fresh coffee along with sausage and scrambled egg sandwiches which were cooked on the grate over the fire pit. Then we freshened up and went to the newsroom for the latest print out to see what had transpired during the night. I am not sure if I had a favorite driver in the race. At that time, I was new to sports car racing, and I took it for granted that the track promoters knew who was good, so I pulled for the ones they suggested. I remember they were pleased with the results. We talked about the fun we had for weeks. We felt lucky to have been a part of that exciting weekend which was all too short.

Many years have passed since that time and although the 24-hour race was shortened and even discontinued for a few years, it came back because all types of auto racing had become more popular, and the energy crisis had passed. Since that time my love of all types of racing has never wavered. I find it is just amazing what mere mortals can do with these wonderful driving machines that we know as race cars.

Vivian Simons

(Editor’s note: This story is published with the permission from the author! It was originally published on Race Fans Forever. More of Vivian’s articles can be found; (Here)!


  1. Great story, Vivian. Those memories of standout early races get places of honor in our minds for good reason. Thanks for sharing this one.

    1. Thank you for responding, Frank.
      As you do with your memories, I think of past days more now than I did 20-30 years ago. Seems like as one gets older, one has more long term memories come to the forefront of our minds, lol.
      We do seem to miss “the good old days”, don’t we?
      Thank you again.

  2. Sweet memories, Vivian. So much has changed. I’ve done a pop up camper at Charlotte & Rockingham with 3 & 4 people and that seemed crowded. I’m sure 6 was stretching it, but you were young and having fun! Must have been rerribly exciting seeing the very first 24 hours at Daytona. The cruising part was fun BITD hoping to spot folks. Running into racing folk at a club was a big bonus. You were lucky to have a mentor so well versed and willing to share. Thanks for painting such a memorable picture. For me it has often been the things surrounding a race and not the race itself that I remember.

    1. David, did you know that my mentor, Dick Joslin, drove the first Dodge at the Daytona? way back then? He was very close to Fireball and just quit racing not too long after Fireball got killed. He was very pensive when talking about that. Dick also won a race on the dirt at Daytona, back in 1954. He always had a picture of ‘Lil Pogo’ on his race car. Do you remember that comic strip? The following may make some interesting reading for you.
      Take care, My Friend. BTW, I miss talking with you.

  3. 1966 was the coldest nite ever in fla . we camped in the infield right at the dawg leg . the rotors glowed and fire spitting out the engines . we were in a pup tent with me my sister janis my cousin leon and dad and a kerosine heater . i slept at the door so i could watch all night , do you have more photos?

    1. Hi Ruffus, Thank you for reading and commenting. This is a re-publish of an article I wrote years ago. It is of one of my favorite races I attended at Daytona.

      Most of the photos here, with the exception of the link – which I hope you clicked on and read – were found, selected and then posted by our gracious host, Berra. He is very good at researching and then posting pictures and other misc racing stuff which he verifies before posting. Unfortunately, back then only hard copy pictures were all we had. All the ones of those I have are in storage. As we got older, we downsized and had to put a lot of things in storage and I have no idea what box some things are in. Perhaps Berra can find more but some stuff is very hard to find as more years pass and newer stuff gets most of the space. since a lot of NASCARd records don’t seem as important to the currents fans, etc. Some of us history buffs try to keep interests in our past histories alive.

      Thank you again for reading and commenting. I hope you keep coming to this site and reading and commenting, as Berra, David Nance, Frank Buhrman and Dave Fulton have great up to date articles. I very seldom do current ones any more, just re-publish older ones I have written.


  4. Ruffus, I responded to this several evenings ago, but it apparently didn’t take.
    I am sorry, but I do not have any photos here. We downsized a few years ago and all my hard copy pictures are in storage. Hard copy is all we had back then and I have no idea what box they are in.
    Berra has been gracious and helpful in finding pictures by doing a lot of research on the internet. He amazes me at times with what he comes up with. Thanks to him and the site some of our history lives on in the pictures. We are fortunate here and have many good articles from Frank Buhrman, David Vance and Dave Fulton. Berra also is good at keeping history going. It is so hard with so much on the internet about current events that fans sometimes forget or just are not interested in history. I hope you clicked on the address I posted on my response to Dave Fulton.
    Thank you again and I sure hope this response shows up!

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