1960 Daytona Races (lost CBS and NBC televised footage of NASCAR prelude events to Daytona 500; 1960)

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1960daytona1.jpg

Surviving photo of the event.

Status: Lost

On 31st January, 1960, the pole position race for the Daytona 500 and compact car events commenced. Serving as the prelude to the main event on 14th February, these races became part of television history, as they were the first NASCAR races to be televised.

Background[edit | edit source]

Heading into the Daytona 500 on 14th February, a variety of races were set to commence as part of Speedweeks. On 31st January, the Grand National Pole Position race would commence to decide the front row for the Daytona 500. Other events, including a compact car race, a 2-lap women's compact car event, and a Le Mans start sports car event would also be conducted. CBS therefore decided that these races would be perfect to televise. Not only would it provide comprehensive racing coverage, but it would also give CBS the opportunity to learn how to properly cover racing events, which back then were notably difficult to capture for television.

Thus, with the broadcast being produced by Hugh Beach, the network sent a crew of over 50 to cover the event, and it would be broadcast as part of CBS Sports Spectacular.[1] Among the crew included Walter Cronkite, a CBS anchorman who had competed in sport car events, included the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring. Also present was Art Beck, CBS' director for network operations and fellow sports car enthusiast.[2] The pits interviewer was Bud Palmer, who would also provide occasional colour commentary according to Racing-Reference. However, other sources claim he was the host. [3]

CBS decided to first capture some races held on the 30th, so as to provide filler in the case of a lack of action on Sunday. The Sunday broadcast was expected to attract around 17 million viewers, which ultimately turned out to be correct.[4] As a result of the broadcast's success, a few NASCAR races would be televised throughout the 1960s, before more regular broadcasts began during the 1970s. CBS would also start to televise NASCAR events in the next few decades, starting with the 1979 Daytona 500, CBS' broadcast being the first flag-to-flag coverage of the race.[5]

The Broadcast[edit | edit source]

Racing-References's nascarman History provides a detailed report of what was broadcast by CBS. The Sunday broadcast began at 15:00, and lasted for an hour and half. It started with a tape of Cronkite driving a Lotus Xi at a top speed of 130mph across the Daytona Speedway.[6] As something that would become a regular feature of not just NASCAR, but for motor racing as a whole, Cronkite would commentate as he drove along the Speedway, with footage being recorded from the passenger's seat with the intention to give the audience a feeling of just how quick the vehicles could go at Daytona. Following this, the final lap of an SCCA Regional sports car race was shown live, Ed Rahal being victorious in a 1957 Jaguar D-Type, following on from his first at the Speedway on 5th September, 1959.[7]

The main event for the broadcast would be the first of Daytona 500's two qualifying races. This one would help decide the pole position for the 500. In a 10-lap race pitting Cotton Owens, Jack Smith, Fireball Roberts, and Bobby Johns, it ultimately saw Owens in a Pontiac become victorious after having overtaken Smith via the bottom of the backstretch to win via a car length on the final lap.[8][9]

The next two races featured Le Mans starts, which is a type of standing start where the driver must run to the other side of the track, unlock their car, get in and start their machine, before driving away to start the race.[10] The first was a women's compact race, essentially a re-do of a women's race held on Saturday. Denise McCluggage went into the lead with her Volvo at the start, but would be passed by the Plymouth Valiants of Vicki Wood and Barbara Bundy at turn one. Bundy would then overtake Wood just before the inside track on lap 1, and would comfortably remain in the lead for the rest of the race, ahead of Wood and McCluggage.[11]

The other race featuring a Le Mans start was a one-lap men's sports car event, this time focusing on mainly on the Le Mans gimmick with Rahal also winning this event. The final race televised by CBS was the first of two men's compact races. Like with the women's event, the Plymouth Valiants proved to be the fastest, with Marvin Panch dominating the race from start to finish to claim victory and earn $1,900 in prize money, more than $17,500 when adjusted for modern inflation.

12th February NBC Broadcast[edit | edit source]

In addition to CBS' ground-breaking broadcast, NBC also hastily decided to broadcast an event at Daytona that same year. On 12th February, NBC televised the Autolite Challenge Race, a sprint that the Autolite themselves would be in control of by selecting the drivers that would compete. Sources conflict on its length; The Earnhardts: A Biography states that it was a four-mile ten-lap event,[12] whereas Stock Car Racing History claims it was 10-miles and only four laps for a total broadcast time of five minutes. Regardless, it was televised on NBC as part of NBC's Today via tape delay, with Johnny Beauchamp winning after having narrowly passed Ned Jarrett and winning by an inch.[13]

Availability[edit | edit source]

While newsreel footage of the compact race is publicly available, the CBS broadcast is now considered lost media. According to Racing-Reference, a kinetoscope of the broadcast may still exist,[14] though the chances of it or any CBS film of the event being recovered is now intensely slim. This is because tapes of recorded television events back then were usually wiped and reused due to the intense cost of storing them.[15] The NBC footage has likely suffered the same fate.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Surviving clip of the men's compact race.
nascarman History discussing the lost 1960 Daytona Races broadcasts (4:55-5:34)


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also (Early Sports Television Media)[edit | edit source]

See Also (NASCAR Media)[edit | edit source]

External Link[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ESPN countdown stating that the event was broadcast as part of CBS Sports Spectacular. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  2. Television review for the CBS broadcast, noting Walter Cronkite and Art Beck's enthusiasm for sports cars. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  3. Richard Petty: The Cars of the King crediting Bud Palmer as the host for the event. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  4. 1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities stating the broadcast drew around 17 million viewers. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  5. Fox Sports crediting the 1979 Daytona 500 broadcast as the first flag-to-flag coverage of the event. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  6. Road and Track detailing Walter Cronkite's drive along the Daytona Speedway. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  7. Vintage Racecar noting Ed Rahal's SSCA Regional sports car win. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  8. Cotton Owens Garage noting Owens was on pole for the 1960 Daytona 500 as a result of this qualifying race. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  9. Gettyimages providing a photo of Owens being congratulated for earning the pole position. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  10. Car Magazine defining a Le Mans start. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  11. Newspaper clipping detailing the women's compact race. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  12. The Earnhardts: A Biography detailing the NBC broadcast. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  13. Stock Car Racing History detailing the NBC broadcast and the Autolite Challenge Race result. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  14. Racing-Reference detailing how a kinetoscope of the broadcast may still potentially exist. Retrieved 17 Oct '21
  15. Old Time Review detailing the practice of wiping. Retrieved 17 Oct '21