While Daytona International Speedway is gearing up for next weekend’s (Aug. 28-29) anticipated Coke Zero Sugar 400 and Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, Thursday was about taking a step back in time to the road course. No, not to last week’s historic first visit by NASCAR’s top national series to the DAYTONA Road Course at the Speedway, but instead, back to the sand and asphalt of A1A and the old Daytona beach-road course, a staple in Daytona from 1936-58.
The legendary Paul Goldsmith, who won the final Grand National (today the NASCAR Cup Series) race on the old beach-road course in 1958 before Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, made a return to the Racing’s North Turn Restaurant at Ponce Inlet, the actual site of that iconic victory. There, the 94-year-old reunited with an old friend – the original 1949 “”Roarin’ Relic” No. 87 Oldsmobile, that he, along with other iconic NASCAR drivers, drove on the sands of the beach course, the high banks of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway as well as southern bullrings for a decade.
“It brings back memories of driving on the beach and how it was at that time,” said Goldsmith, the only driver to win on the Daytona Beach Road Course in both race cars and on a motorcycle (DAYTONA 200 in 1953). “There are so many races that I have run but it was different here at the beach. You had to be careful getting through the corners with the loose sand, and that backstretch was awfully rough. It would bounce you around quite a bit.”
Goldsmith, AKA “Goldie,” claimed nine wins in NASCAR’s premier series, but for the Michigan native who now lives in Indiana, none were more sweet than that last beach-course race.
“I think we should drive it on the beach again and see what it’s like today,” joked Goldsmith. “It brings back a lot of the memories. That (victory) was interesting. I should have won the last two (referring to 1957 race). I was leading the year before when we blew a piston, but I was lucky and the car finished (in 1958) and we won the race.”
When asked if he was surprised where the sport of NASCAR had come since the days of the beach road-course, Goldsmith said, “I think you have to look back at the Frances (Bill France Sr. promoted the beach- road course, and founded both NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway). Promoting stock cars and working with the automotive companies. They developed so many race tracks around the country to run these stock cars.”
While Goldsmith won the last Grand National race on the beach driving Smokey Yunick’s No. 3 Pontiac on Feb 23, ‘58, he piloted the “Roarin’ Relic” on the sand just two days before in a NASCAR Modified race where he finished fifth behind winner Banjo Matthews.
Thursday, after Goldsmith took photos by the car on the beach, the “Chariot of Champions,” as it is also called, was taken to Daytona International Speedway where Goldsmith posed by the car on the start/finish line. Afterwards, track president Chip Wile got behind the wheel of the fabled machine, fired the engine and proceeded to take three laps around the 31-degree banked venue. Upon conclusion, the “Relic” was driven to its new home for the foreseeable future – the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) museum, located on the grounds of DIS, in which Goldsmith was inducted in 2008.
“What an incredible experience,” said Wile of having Goldsmith and the car at the track. “When you think about the history of this car on the beaches of Daytona and here at Daytona International Speedway, to get the opportunity to be behind the wheel and experience what those drivers felt was incredible. I have done some neat stuff in my career but this was certainly near the top of the list.
“To have Mr. Goldsmith here in Daytona is something special, and for us, that 1958 race on the beach course is extra special. We all love the history of the sport and it’s folks like Mr. Goldsmith who have gotten us here. Awesome to see him here today…means so much to us all.”
The “Roarin’ Relic” is a true survivor. Built originally by Bobby Griffin’s Griffin Motors of Florence, SC, it survived more than 10 years of top-level stock car competition at the hands of some of the sport’s most famous drivers: Goldsmith, two-time NASCAR champion Lee Petty, two-time NASCAR champion Buck Baker, Darel Dieringer, Bill Blair and Gene Darrah. It remains stunningly original seven decades later — a true time machine.
“We are thrilled that the Relic’s owner, Marshall Griffin, and friend Gray Bostick, decided that the MSHFA should be its long-term home,” said MSHFA President George Levy. “Starting today, visitors to our museum on the grounds of Daytona International Speedway can come see NASCAR’s oldest original car and what racing in the ‘50s really looked like.”
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Museum is a great place to visit while in Daytona for Daytona International Speedway events or visiting the Daytona Beach area. The Hall consists of not only the Roarin’ Relic but also other great racing machines and artifacts. Take a virtual tour here: https://www.mshf.com/video/mshfa-virtual-preview.html
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