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KEN WILLIS: How the dog track shaped a big piece of NASCAR – Daytona Beach News-Journal

KEN WILLIS: How the dog track shaped a big piece of NASCAR – Daytona Beach News-Journal
05 Oct
1:14

Therrrrrrrrre goes Lucky …

This week brought news on the official end to greyhound racing in Daytona Beach. The final dash to victory (and fade to fourth, when it comes to my ticket) comes next March 28 at the Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club, still known by lifers at “the dog track.”

A lot has and a lot will be written about greyhound racing and its history as an entertainment vehicle and controversial manner of such. But some history-making is unintended, and whenever possible around here it’s worth retelling how the local dog track paved the way — quite literally — for one of the most iconic geometric shapes in sports history.

The layout of Daytona International Speedway was once very unique but over the years has truly earned the “iconic” label. It even invented a word: Trioval, due to that additional soft “corner” in the middle of the frontstretch. Dogleg is the most often used descriptor.

For some of you, this is just a refresher, but it’s worth it.

When Big Bill France decided he’d indeed found the right property for his desired Speedway in 1957, he relied heavily on local engineer Charlie Moneypenny to make it happen. There was one overriding order: The track would match the 2½ miles of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but would include high banking in the turns to allow full throttle through the turns and, therefore, faster speeds than Indy.

Along with a natural promoter’s need for dramatics, this might’ve been equal parts ego and revenge, since Big Bill had been unceremoniously “escorted” from the Indy track in 1954 — Indy-car racing’s governing body didn’t want NASCAR’s leader chatting-up the drivers and possibly luring them away.

But Moneypenny and Big Bill had a geometry problem. Their property, tucked between the airport and U.S. 92, wouldn’t allow for an Indy-shaped speedway. The dog track, built a decade earlier, sat right where the entrance to Turn 1 would be paved.

The late Dan Warren was a long-ago city commissioner and longtime area attorney. Through much of the ’50s, he served as liaison between Big Bill and the city as both sides maneuvered to get the new track built. Warren, who died in 2011, once recalled the pre-construction issue and the role played by Moneypenny, a tall, slow-talking man who, Warren said,  “didn’t look like the genius he was.”

No, there couldn’t be a straight line from the exit of Turn 4 to the entrance of Turn 1 if you wanted a 2½-mile track. Not enough room because of the dog track. Instead, the Speedway would come off Turn 4 at an outside angle, pointed toward the northwest. Halfway down the frontstretch, it would veer again, this time inside toward the southwest and Turn 1.

The extra yardage used by incorporating the dogleg would stretch the asphalt to 2½ miles, while adding another bank in front of the main grandstands (18 degrees, as opposed to the 31-degree banking on the east and west sides).

“It was strictly an engineering problem, and Charlie was an engineer,” Warren said.

There wasn’t a moment’s thought given to buying the dog track, considering Big Bill basically didn’t even have enough money to build the Speedway — though he built it anyway, which was testament to his perseverance and ability to bring others on board.

Some 50 years later, the financials were rather different, and the Speedway arranged to swallow the dog track property while providing a new home just down Williamson Boulevard, where the popular poker room and simulcast betting will remain in play after next March.

It’s hard to imagine — impossible, really — the Speedway in any other form than that oh-so-familiar trioval. You could draw it on a cocktail napkin and show it to a barstooler in Liverpool, and he’d likely recognize it. But he might not know how it came to be. If ever in Liverpool, now you can tell him.

The Picks

It’s a strange dynamic. If you’re a neutral observer, and you watch one good team more than another good team, you sometimes hyper-focus on the negatives of the team you see more often. Therefore, when those two good teams meet, those negatives skew your hunch.

Naturally, someone who watches Team B more than Team A will feel otherwise. But I’m not that guy, so I’m softly siding with Team B — Auburn by 7 over Florida.

• Elsewhere, Iowa beats Michigan; Ohio State by just 3 over Michigan State; Georgia by a bunch over Tennessee; Navy beats Air Force; Notre Dame by just 9 over Bowling Green; USF wins pillow fight over UConn; Miami by 8 over Virginia Tech; North Carolina over Georgia Tech; Stanford upsets Washington; B-CU big over Morgan State; Stetson in OT over Butler; and the Greyhounds of Moravian by four scores over Gettysburg’s Bullets.

BTW: You look at the list of America’s oldest colleges and universities, and you see the familiar names — Harvard, Yale, Penn, William, Mary … oh, wait, that’s William AND Mary. But right there at No. 6 is Moravian, located in Bethlehem, which sounds downright ancient except it’s the Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.

Two things you might not know: 1. John Andretti, who won in both Indy-car and NASCAR, graduated from Moravian with a business degree; 2. Exhaustive research suggests five other schools are known as the Greyhounds: Assumption, Eastern New Mexico, University of Indianapolis, Loyola (Maryland), and Yankton.

BTW II: Oops, scratch Yankton. Lyle Alzado’s alma mater in South Dakota closed in 1984 and became the site of a federal prison camp. No kidding.

Reach Ken Willis at ken.willis@news-jrnl.com 

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Source: https://www.news-journalonline.com/sports/20191004/ken-willis-how-dog-track-shaped-big-piece-of-nascar

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