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85 Years of Rolex At Daytona International Speedway

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by Andrew Maness

When Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959 a new era of American racing began. In 1962 that era gained its most grueling and prestigious race: the Rolex 24. This 24-hour endurance race is a star-studded event that demands the best of its competitors who are all aiming to add their name to the history booksleaving with a trophy in hand and a Rolex Daytona on their wrist.

Drivers who top the field in each of the three classes receive an engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona and as 2008 Rolex 24 winner Dario Franchitti tells CH, “Always great to win, but really we all want that damn watch.”

The fact that a luxury Swiss brand became intrinsically linked with racing in Florida may seem like a stretch, but the association between Rolex and Daytona Beach goes all the way back 85 years to February 1933. It was then that Sir Malcolm Campbell set a land speed record of 272.46 MPH (which he would break two years later) in what was the most streamlined and aerodynamic version of his mighty Bluebird racer, with a Rolex Oyster on his wrist. He had been wearing the watch in years prior, but this was his greatest accomplishment in Daytona with the new car. As far as why Daytona was a destination for racers in the first place, Sir Campbell summed it up simply saying, “Daytona Beach, Florida is the only place I know where it is possible to make world’s land-speed records. The sand packs almost as hard as cement, and there is sufficient length to get up speed.”

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