Sexto Elemento’s Travel Guide with ten essential tips to make the most of a trip to the 24 Hour of Daytona endurance race.
Wide open throttle, 6th gear at around 180mph, with a race engine blaring, pegged at its gearing limit and a driver scanning the horizon for his braking marker (roughly the Sunoco sign) to slow down for Turn 1. Then, high against the wall, full braking pressure to slow from 180mph to 60mph and a G-load of 1.5 – for 24 hours at the same turn. This section of the track is where you will be standing on Saturday if you time your schedule correctly.
Anytime one walks in Daytona International Speedway you are walking on legendary grounds and a massive structure that no pictures will do it justice. Daytona ranks as a must visit for all car enthusiasts, walking on the famous banking section is a surreal experience. For the people who have not driven in Daytona and all we have is racing simulator experience it is a unique feeling to see the banking up close. The slight struggle to walk up the banking section gives you a physical reference to how steep it is. There is much to see and expect in the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.
1) Florida Weather – What to expect?
Usually in late January Daytona Beach has colder weather, for us Florida folks. The occasional rain with the chilly weather is what can make for a soggy and cold day, to avoid all that take the proper precautions. Florida weather is unpredictable, and at the time of this race it goes something like this, chilly and rainy morning, hot afternoon then as the sun goes down chilly again or perfect weather with a cool breeze. We recommend you bring at least one jacket or hoodie (preferably water-resistant) something lightweight because you will be carrying it or wearing it all day. If you plan on bringing a backpack (recommended), packing a Pancho is a plus. We also recommend a comfortable and waterproof shoe, to be comfortable even in wet weather. The last thing you want is walking all day with wet shoes and socks.
2) Tickets – What to Buy?
Which tickets to buy depends on how many days you will be staying and your budget, unless you live close or are camping at Daytona International Speedway the 4-Day Ticket package might be too much money. If you plan on just visiting the area for the weekend, the ticket we always buy is the Grassroots Motorsports 2-Day Package for $94. It comes with a host of extras:
– (1) Saturday and Sunday infield and stadium general admission ticket, which includes access to Grassroots Motorsports hospitality tent.
– Saturday and Sunday garage access.
– $10 in Daytona dollars (valid at any Daytona International Speedway concession stand),
– Hot breakfast Sunday morning served in a climate-controlled Midway Suite.
– Eligibility for exclusive behind-the-scenes track experiences.
Grassroots Motorsports’ Breakfast Of Champions
The breakfast at the Midway Suites inside the Daytona International Speedway is excellent after a long night, a quiet area you can relax and watch the race on televisions inside the suite. It is always nice to share an experience with other car-loving people, a higher probability of making new friends is just a bonus. Grassroots Motorsports Magazine is a favorite of ours, and it is an excellent resource for any DIY car guy.
Tickets And Garage Access
[Pro Tip] Buy your tickets as soon as you can afford them, some ticket packages sell out quicker than others.
Make sure whatever ticket package you buy includes garage access if it does not contain it make sure to buy it; garage access comes in handy at two specific times early Saturday morning (before the race) and late-night (during the race). As always remember to buy what you can afford, there are different ticket packages and prices for you to choose from on the Daytona International Speedway website.
3) Hotel Tips
The day begins with a walk from the hotel to the race track. The closer the hotel/motel to the circuit the better, keep this distance within a mile of the Daytona International Speedway. It is essential to plan and book your stay a minimum a few months before the race date. In 2018 hotels sold-out quicker than usual because of the debut of Fernando Alonso. Find a right median of price and distance from the track that works for you. The 24 hours of Daytona is a long race; it is a great luxury to have a hotel close and not worry about driving or parking. A close hotel also helps with emergencies, if you forgot something you know you are not far away from your hotel or stores without wasting much time. You will be surprised how quickly 24 hours passes at an endurance race.
4) Pre-Race Activities Tip
Once you reach the race circuit, make your way to the Tram Lot, located by the Florida Hospital Gate area on the far west side of the race track. Make sure you make it to the racetrack early around 7 am to see the race teams’ last-minute preparations for the 24-hour race. At 7 am that garage access ticket gives you access to all the race teams working on the cars with fewer people around. Daytona International Speedway is a massive facility; a motorsport stadium is how they advertise the racetrack. You will need a plan to make the most of your 24 Hours of Daytona experience. Follow these recommendations at your leisure:
Pre-race activities early Saturday morning.
Last minute race preparations before The 24 Hours of Daytona.
Before the race starts at 2:40 pm make your way to the infield and Fanzone sections. You will probably be in the area if you are in the garage access area as mentioned before. After you see the garages in the early morning, make your way to the International Horseshoe seating area. Rest your feet and catch the support races (usually Ferrari Challenge and a Heritage Exhibition with classic race cars).
Keep an eye on your schedule and when the opening ceremonies start. The opening ceremony is the time to be near the Fanzone or garage area. This area will lead you through pit row where all the race cars and crew are lined up for the start of ceremonies. The opening of the hot pits area is an excellent opportunity to use this as a shortcut to the stadium seating side of Daytona. Enjoy your time near the pits, see your favorite cars and drivers during the introductions. Then, make your way to your chosen seats in the grandstand, the higher, the better. It is a must-do experience to walk on the banks of Daytona, while you make your way to your seats.
The opening ceremony with fans.
The opening ceremony shortly before the start of the race.
5) Start Of The Race
At 2:40 PM starts the 24 Hours at Daytona, one of the best places to see the whole racetrack and the fight for positions for Turn 1 is in the grandstands on the stadium side of Daytona International Speedway. Make your way up the stadium seating, the entire facility is open, and you can sit almost anywhere you wish. We recommend as high as you can by Turn 1. On a bright and sunny day, you can see the start of the race and the ocean (in the far distance).
The view of Turn 1 from the grandstands of the stadium seating section.
6) During The Race
After the start of the race and you enjoyed the view from the stadium seating, make your way to the west side of Daytona to the Tram Lot area near the Florida Hospital Gate. The Tram will take you to the infield section near one of the best places to view the race, the International Horseshoe. This time to see the rest of the infield section of the racetrack. You will want to walk westward to see The Kink and The Carousel. These turns have lower fences and seating areas to view blistering red brake rotors, hear the cacophony of race cars blast past you and the crackling of exhausts with fast, sequential down shifts.
[Pro Tip] Bring earplugs or headphones, the glorious sounds of race cars is tremendous, but for 24 hours it can drain you of energy.
7) Where To Rest and Shelter From The Elements
The best place to relax after a long day of walking around Daytona is the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine (GRM) tent area. Many of their project cars displayed in their parking lot. The GRM Tent is an excellent place to rest, take your food to eat and watch the race on the televisions. The tent is a great place to hide from the rain if it decides to make an appearance.
Another place for food and shelter is in the Midway section under the grandstands of the stadium seating section. You can see many displays of racing history and cars. The Midway also has many places to buy food before you make your way back to the grandstands.
The Midway Section under the stadium grandstands.
8) Fireworks Display
Keep an eye on your schedule (usually 11 pm) at night a fireworks display occurs, making for memorable pictures of cars racing and fireworks in the background. The best places to take these photos or videos is the stadium grandstands or the opposite side of the International Horseshoe seating area.
9) At Night To Early Morning
If you are still awake congratulations, you are a hardcore fan. If you want to meet your fellow hardcore car guys/gals, we highly recommend doing the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine Midnight Tour. The tour starts at midnight, meet them at their large tent section before midnight, the earlier, the better. You get some behind the scenes information and access. You can also ask the editor and other Grassroots Motorsports employees questions about anything. The tour is an excellent way to cap off your night. Then, get some sleep for the final stretch of the 24 Hours Of Daytona.
Some late-night wandering around near the hot pits and garages.
10) End Of The Race
We recommended watching the final laps of the race is in the stadium seating areas. Stay close to the finish line to see the white flag and checkered flag waving as cars race by underneath. The view from the grandstands will allow you to see all of the track. Do not miss the final battles for positions, ending of the race, the podium cars making their way to victory lane and victory celebrations.
The view from the stadium seating sections by the Start/Finish Line of the podium finishers.
Bonus – 11) Recommended Gear From Our Experience
Backpack – The 24 Hours of Daytona is a long day for the spectator; you will be living off of what you packed in your bag. The backpack is where you will have most of your items below stored, do the best with what you can afford to buy.
Small Portable Radio With A Headphone Jack or Headphones With Built-In Radio – This will be handy to keep track of what is going on in the race. The speakers at Daytona International Speedway can be too far away, or the sound distorted a bit. The small radio saves your cell phone’s battery life. Give it a full charge the night before and use it as much as you can (you can use your phone as a back up). The radio station for the IMSA Radio broadcast at the time of this blog posting is 107.9 FM. You can also download the IMSA App or go to IMSA.com on your phone.
Headphones/Ear Pods – This is for your radio or phone, it makes a big difference to isolate sound and hear clearly as race cars at wide open throttle race past you.
External Battery Charger – It is always suitable to have one in your backpack for your phone or action cameras. We are not kidding when we say it is a long day.
Clothes And Shoes
Jacket or Hoodie – Ideally you want this to be water resistant, water repellant or waterproof. The weather changes randomly in Florida, and it is usually ranging from cooler to chilly in early January, so something lightweight and at minimum water-resistant.
Rain Poncho – If you cannot afford or do not want to buy at minimum a water-resistant jacket or hoodie than this is your best bet for water protection.
Comfortable Shoes – This sounds like a no-brainer, but you will be walking all day so make sure you wear your most comfortable, worn-in shoes. It is a bonus if the shoes are waterproof as well.
Your Journey Of 24 Hours
We hope this helps you plan your day at the 24 Hours of Daytona. To say the speedway is enormous is an understatement. To have a plan helps keep you organized and enables you to experience more. We have been going for years. It takes multiple visits to get to know all the areas of the speedway. Even now some parts of the track feel like we just discovered it. There is something for everyone at this race circuit, from luxury suites to camping grounds. We hope you have a great time on your 24-hour journey through Daytona International Speedway.