Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, United States. The city lies about northeast of Orlando, southeast of Jacksonville, and northwest of Miami. In the 2010 U.S. Census, it had a population of 61,005. It is a principal city of the Deltona–Daytona Beach–Ormond Beach, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which was home to 590,289 people in 2010. Daytona Beach is also a principal city of the Fun Coast region of Florida.
The city is historically known for its beach where the hard-packed sand allows motorized vehicles to drive on the beach in restricted areas. This hard-packed sand made Daytona Beach a mecca for motorsports, and the old Daytona Beach Road Course hosted races for over 50 years. This was replaced in 1959 by the Daytona International Speedway. The city is also the headquarters for NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing Association.
Daytona Beach hosts large groups of out-of-towners that descend upon the city for various events, notably Speedweeks in early February when over 200,000 NASCAR fans come to attend the season-opening Daytona 500. Other events include the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 race in July, Bike Week in early March, Biketoberfest in late October, and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race in January.
The area where Daytona Beach is today was once inhabited by the indigenous Timucuan Indians who lived in fortified villages. The Timucuas were nearly exterminated by contact with Europeans through war, enslavement and disease and became extinct as a racial entity through assimilation and attrition during the 18th century. The Seminole Indians, descendants of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama, frequented the area prior to the Second Seminole War.
During the era of British rule of Florida between 1763 and 1783, the King's Road passed through present-day Daytona Beach. The road extended from St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, to Andrew Turnbull's experimental colony in New Smyrna. In 1804 Samuel Williams received a land grant of from the Spanish Crown, which had regained Florida from the British after the American Revolution. This land grant encompassed the area that would become Daytona Beach. Williams built a slave-labor-based plantation to grow cotton, rice and sugar cane. His son Samuel Hill Williams would abandon the plantation during the Second Seminole War, when the Seminoles burned it to the ground.
In 1871, Mathias Day, Jr. of Mansfield, Ohio, purchased a 2,144.5 acre tract of the former Williams Plantation, on the west bank of the tidal channel known as the Halifax River. He built a hotel around which the initial section of town, today the Daytona Beach Historic District, arose. In 1872, due to financial troubles, Day lost title to his land; nonetheless, residents decide to name the city Daytona in his honor, and incorporated the town in 1876.
In 1886, the St. Johns & Halifax River Railway arrived in Daytona. The line would be purchased in 1889 by Henry M. Flagler, who made it part of his Florida East Coast Railway. The separate towns of Daytona, Daytona Beach, Kingston, and Seabreeze merged as "Daytona Beach" in 1926, at the urging of civic leader J.B. Kahn and others. By the 1920s, it was dubbed "The World's Most Famous Beach".
Daytona's wide beach of smooth, compacted sand attracted automobile and motorcycle races beginning in 1902, as pioneers in the industry tested their inventions. It hosted land speed record attempts beginning in 1904, when William K. Vanderbilt set an unofficial record of . Land speed racers from Barney Oldfield to Henry Seagrave to Malcolm Campbell would visit Daytona repeatedly and make the beach course famous. Record attempts, including numerous fatal endeavors such as Frank Lockhart (Stutz Black Hawk, 1926) and Lee Bible (Triplex Special, 1929), would continue until Campbell's March 7, 1935 effort, which set the record at and marked the end of Daytona's land speed racing days.
On March 8, 1936, the first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, located in the present-day Town of Ponce Inlet. In 1958, William France Sr. and NASCAR created the Daytona International Speedway to replace the beach course. Automobiles are still permitted on most areas of the beach, at a maximum speed of .