Jun 27, 6 days ago

Coke Zero 400 at Daytona is a 4th of July You Won’t Forget

Coke Zero 400 at Daytona is a 4th of July You Won’t Forget

As a kid growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida, the Fourth of July was always my favorite holiday. The day started with a trip to the Daytona International Speedway for what was then called the Firecracker 400. The race would start at 10:00 AM and would normally be finished by 1:00 PM.

From there it was time to go to the beach. We would normally spend the afternoon swimming in the surf, that is except for the years there was a family cookout at one of the state parks in the area.

Then at night it was time to head down to the Halifax River to watch fireworks. That’s a hard day to top. The 400 always being on the Fourth, whether it was Tuesday, Friday, Sunday or Saturday was tradition. July 4th meant racing in the morning, fireworks at night. That’s just the way it was. Some of the greatest races in NASCAR history took place on the 4th of July at Daytona.

In 1984, the King Richard Petty won his 200th race in the Sprint Cup Series. It would prove to be his last win in the greatest career in NASCAR history. The race was a spine-tingling affair with Petty and Cale Yarborough practically door handle to door handle coming down to the end. When a caution happened in the waning laps, the dash to the finish line happened a lap early with Petty barely edging Yarborough at the stripe.

1984 was an election year, and President Ronald Reagan decided Daytona was a great place to make a campaign stop on the Fourth of July. I was seated on the top row of the DePalma Tower so I had a great view of Air Force One landing at the airport on the other side of the speedway. There were no backstretch grandstands back then.

I also got a great view of the presidential motorcade coming up behind me as it made its way into the speedway. How can you beat a day like that?

Since then the 400 has been moved to the Saturday closest to the Fourth. This means it could be on the 1st or the 7th in it falls on Wednesday. That’s okay. Normally the Fourth of July turns into one long weekend anyway. If you do your Fourth of July picnics and firework shows on the Fourth, you can still make time to spend Saturday at the speedway.

Now that Daytona has lights, the race is in the evening. For those of us who sat through day races in July, this is a good thing. There was not much hotter than being at Daytona in the middle of the day on July Fourth. How the drivers could stand that heat was amazing.

Had the race not gone “under the lights” when it did, I was done. The last year of day racing on the Fourth of July weekend was 1997. By the time they dropped the green flag I had completely soaked all of my clothes in sweat. When John Andretti took the checkered flag I had made up my mind that I was now too old for this. But when I got home, my dad said “have you heard the news?” I said “No, I guess not”. He said “they are putting lights up around the speedway. Next year the race is going to be at night.” I replied “Thank God”. I told him that I was not going back to another July race had they not announced that.

One of the great things about the 400 now that it is at night, Daytona puts on one of the most amazing fireworks shows you’ve ever seen. They put barges in Lake Lloyd near the backstretch and shoot the fireworks off immediately as the checkered flag waves. The fireworks show is worth the price of admission even without the race.

If you want to do the Fourth of July weekend right, then spending it at Daytona is the way to go. If you get to the track early, there is a Nationwide race the night before the 400 that is always a good race too. It’s a quick 250-mile race which is a nice night out on a Friday. Many of the Sprint Cup drivers also drive in the 250 the night before, so this is always a great show. On occasion, there is also a Grand Am race during the day of the 400.

Share "Coke Zero 400 at Daytona is a 4th of July You Won’t Forget" via

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

More in NASCAR
Jun 30, 3 days ago

Marlin Fishing Is Like Cannibalism

Mike’s got the beer, got the snacks, got the man cave — Sharpe 70″ BIG screen – double check. Our secret weapon Billy the Marlin. He’s been confusing them. Who’s seen a talking dancing fish outside of Florida….

Jun 27, 5 days ago

Calder Trophy Goes to Jonathan Huberdeau

The Calder Trophy, given to the NHL Rookie of the Year, resides in South Florida. The Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau had 14 goals and 17 assists in the abbreviated 48 games season for the Panthers. Huberdeau is the first mem…

Jun 27, 6 days ago

Then Again We Do Have A Dancing Singing Fish For A Mascot

episode-02 Mike talk about a few West Coast boys getting knocked out, dragged down and sent home crying. Mike takes a shot at a bald man carrying stick and wearing a dress….