If you know even the slightest bit of information about NASCAR (or its longer name, The National Association for Stock Car Racing), you know that Daytona Beach is known as “The World Center of Racing.” In fact, the sport began right up the beach from The Aku Tiki. It may seem crazy now, but in the early 1950s, drivers began racing their cars right here on the beach – the very same beach that the Aku Tiki is located on! The beach’s long, smooth straights earned Daytona Beach reputation as being “paradise for speed junkies.” Additionally, American automakers used the beach to test their latest models. These early stock car races are the foundation upon which modern racing as we know it today were built upon. Seeing the sport’s potential very early on, Bill France founded NASCAR in 1948 and opened the Daytona Beach International Speedway in 1959. Today, racing in Daytona Beach looks very different. In January of 2016, it will look more dissimilar than the early days of beach driving than ever, when the Daytona International Speedway’s $400 million dollar renovation is complete. This track makeover has garnered national attention. Over Memorial Day Weekend in 2016, the Daytona Beach International Speedway will host The Country 500. The event feature 45 acts on three stages and I, for one, am excited. With each passing day, more and more artists are announced! Today, the list of headliners includes: Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, Kid Rock, Lady Antebellum, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Lee Brice, Eli Young Band, and even Willie Nelson. Yes, you read that right – WILLIE NELSON. As you can probably tell from the tone of my writing, I for one, am very, very excited for this festival. Also called “The Great American Music Fest at Daytona,” The Country 500 festival will feature the biggest stars in country music spread over three days and nights, programmed on three huge performance stages—all specially designed and built for the festival. Country 500 will take place on the infield of the world-famous Daytona International Speedway, a historic first mega-music festival inside the hallowed grounds of one of the most iconic motorsports venues in America.
With the complete list finally being announced to the public, Early Bird Tickets went on sale just two days ago, priced at $199 for the weekend. I got mine quickly, and you should too – advanced pricing jumps to $229 per ticket and regularly priced tickets will be $249.
Fans at the festival will also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their favorite country stars at artist meet-and-greets located throughout pit road and the garages. Numerous other features—a select festival menu sold from food booths and food trucks; carnival rides; arcade games; cooling water elements; country-and-western merchandise; fireworks; and more—will all be a part of the festival, as Country 500 transforms racing’s greatest venue into a festival-goer’s dream.
It seems like this is just the beginning of the new events to be held at the Speedway – adding even more reasons to the long list of reasons why The Aku Tiki is the perfect place to stay for beach goers who want multifaceted vacation that includes the best of what Daytona Beach has to offer. In a recent interviews, Joie Chitwood, ISC’s president, has made it clear that he wants the newly-renovated speedway to become the world center of entertainment. In his words:
“This is only the beginning for non-racing events at the speedway – football? Absolutely a potential. How about soccer? That’s an opportunity. How about something we haven’t thought of yet?”
I can’t wait for May of 2016 – my Memorial Day weekend will be filled with laying at the beach in front of the Aku Tiki and rocking out to great country bands at the Daytona International Speedway.