1. Sports

The archives at the Daytona 500: A place where time stands still

The archives and research center at Daytona draws pilgrims every day
Sir Malcolm Campbell’s long, sleek “Bluebird 3,” which he used to set land speed records on the hard sand beaches at Daytona in 1932, is one of the many treasures in the International Speedway Corporation Archives & Research Center. [Photo courtesy of International Speedway Corporation Archives & Research Center]
Published Feb. 15

DAYTONA BEACH — Baseball fans go to Cooperstown. Football zealots head for Canton. Archaeologists make for the Great Pyramids. But if you’re a race fan, this is the place: a low, inconspicuous concrete building about a half mile from Daytona International Speedway, tucked behind the speedway credential office. You have to want to find it. Lots of people make the journey, as if it is Lourdes.

It is the International Speedway Corporation Archives & Research Center, a long name for rooms filled with lots stuff, racing stuff, fascinating stuff, history stuff, as if it was all under a Christmas tree.

“To me, it’s more fun than going to Disney World,” said Bob Kaufman, who lives near Pittsburgh and visited the center with his wife Josie. The visit and tickets to the Daytona 500 are part of his 60th birthday present. “My brother and I, growing up, would sit by the radio for hours listening to the races.”

At the center, you can see Marvin Panch’s 1960 Daytona 500 winning car, right on the floor, next to a replica of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s long, sleek “Bluebird 3,” which he used to set land speed records on the hard sand beaches at Daytona in 1932.

You can see a display dedicated to the late Dale Earnhardt — “Earnhardt Corner.” You can see hundreds of photographs on walls of racing Hall of Famers, trophies everywhere. You can see a driver entry form for the first Daytona 500 in 1959, with the notation “Only premium gasoline will be permitted.”

You can see the restored office of NASCAR patriarch Bill France Sr., the late Big Bill, down to the oak paneling, his pencils in his holder, his race hats, turquoise phone and the plaque on his desk that reads “Money isn’t everything, but it does tend to keep the children in touch.” For some visitors, that office is like being in church.

“I can stay in here forever,” said Wilfred Paradis, who is in his 60s and lives near Richmond, Va. “I can’t get enough of history.”

The archives and research center isn’t on every Daytona map. It isn’t open to the public except on a reservation basis, as part of a Daytona VIP tour that costs $55 and includes a ride on the track, a visit to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America as well as the track’s luxury suites. Thousands have pulled up on the bus since since the center became part of the tour in 2012. The little low building that is the grabber. It takes you back if you want to go there. Old drivers and owners, like the Allisons and the Wood brothers, sometimes show up to poke around. Fans love taking photos with the life sized cardboard cut-outs of Earnhardt and his son, Dale Jr.

“I’ve seen people cry, I mean cry, in Earnhardt Corner,” said Herb Branham, director of the archives and research center.

Branham disappeared, then comes back with a present: under plastic, the actual minutes taken at the December 1947 meeting on Daytona Beach, in the Ebony Room at the Streamline Hotel, where Big Bill and others invented the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Big Bill’s words:

(ital) “It’s got distinct possibilities. We don’t know how big it can be if handled properly. And neither does anyone else. I do know that if stock car racing is handled properly, it can go the same way as big car racing or bicycle racing.” (ital)

Bicycle racing?

Forget it, he was rolling.

This is not a museum. That would be the NASCAR Hall of Fame up in Charlotte. The key words here: archives, research. A climate controlled vault, 70 degrees, 40 percent humidity, holds five million photo negatives and thousands of feet of racing film. Branham is always pulling photos for various stories. Filing cabinets, inventoried and alphabetized, are a treasure trove: King Richard Petty, Big Bill with King Hussein of Jordan, U.S. presidents at the track, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts from nearby Cape Kennedy hanging with the racer boys, as well as a shot of honorary Daytona official Frank Sutton, who played gunnery sergeant Vince Carter on the TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

“He even wore his uniform that day,” Branham noted with a smile.

“My grandmother and grandfather would winter here,” said Bob Kaufman, who is retired, but competes at tractor pulling. “They’d tell us about the races on the beach. And here they are, all the pictures. This is like a bucket list.”

On this day, the tour bus disgorged 24 fans, and Branham gave a littles speech, then told folks to wander around. There is everything everywhere. It’s like going to someone’s house and they have a collection of stuff.

“You hear a lot about the changes and challenges in our industry,” said Branham, a former sportswriter. “But when people come in here, time stands still. It can be the 1930s, it can be the 1940s, it can be the 1970s. When they come here, this is like an oasis.”

When they come here, they linger, so much so that the tour bus sometimes pulls way without them. That happened the other day. A couple was left behind. They waited patiently for a ride, then began to wander around again, one last look. And time stood still again.

Read more:

Aric Almirola's nightmare lives, but so does the dream

Daytona 500: Why NASCAR needs Bubba Wallace to be its breakout star

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly


  1. 7 minutes ago• HomeTeam
    Volleyball teams around Tampa Bay are in region playoff action this week. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The Warriors defeat Springstead 3-0 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals to improve to 24-0.
  2. Thursday night football and more sports on the air.
  3. Jameis Winston's future with the Bucs is likely riding on his performance in Tampa Bay's final 10 games. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Bucs coach says he won’t hold back when giving a recommendation at the end of the season.
  4. Sporting News is honoring the work manager Kevin Cash, left, and general manager Erik Neander, right, did for the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Cash was honored as top AL manager, Neander as MLB Executive of the Year
  5. Hampered by a separated right shoulder, USF quarterback Jordan McCloud managed only 50 passing yards in Saturday's 35-3 loss at Navy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP
    Nonetheless, offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell could is preparing backup quarterback Kirk Rygol just in case
  6. Not counting his role as the 2012 Indianapolis Colts' interim head coach, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has a .652 winning percentage (30-16) after an open week and .538 (21-18) before. KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH  |  AP
    Arians’ teams have typically played well coming out of an off week. Tampa Bay will need just that to save its season.
  7. Lightning center Cedric Paquette will make his season debut against the Penguins. SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The center missed the first eight games of the season with an arm injury
  8. In this July 24, 2016, file photo, Chicago Cubs' David Ross throws out a Milwaukee Brewers batter during a baseball game in Milwaukee. The former catcher reportedly will become the next manager of the Cubs. (AP Photo/Benny Sieu, File) BENNY SIEU  |  AP
    Cubs President Theo Epstein would be banking on the leadership Ross showed during a 15-year playing career.
  9. Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Juwan Taylor (44) grabs the jersey of Florida Gators running back Kadarius Toney (4) while he runs the ball in the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville on Saturday, October 27, 2018.   BRONTE WITTPENN  | TIMES
    “I think it would be great to get him back out there,” Mullen says of Kadarius Toney’s expected return.
  10. O.J. Howard is one of the few marketable assets the Bucs have at the NFL trade deadline. He's talented, he's being underutilized and Tampa Bay is already paying Cameron Brate $7 million a year at tight end. MONICA HERNDON | Times photo MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    The odds of making the playoffs are already slim, so Tampa Bay needs to consider upgrading their 2020 draft if the right trade opportunity exists.