We’re betting many of the beautiful bikes headed to Daytona Beach Bike Week next weekend will be powered with E3 motorcycle spark plugs. After all, they offer a stronger, cleaner and more economical drive than any other motorcycle spark plug on the market. But do you know the history behind the most famous motorcycling event in America? In honor of Bike Week’s 70th anniversary, here’s a little American Biker History 101.
Bike Week has its roots in the inaugural running of the Daytona 200, which took place in January of 1937. Riding a souped up Indian motorcycle, Ed Kretz hit an average 72.34 mph throughout the 3.2-mile beach and road course to cross the finish line first. Known as the “Iron Man” for his amazing endurance on a bike, the Kretz was considered the greatest motorcycle racer of his time and one of the sport’s first major stars (Son, Ed Kretz, Jr. would follow in his footsteps, racing throughout the 1950s and 1960s).
The Daytona 200 quickly gained popularity and ran through 1941 – the year America formally declared war on Japan and entered World War II. The next year, the American Motorcycling Association cancelled the Daytona 200 “in the interests of national defense.” Fuel, tires and key engine components were needed for the war effort and rationed. Still, hard-core racing fans and partiers showed up on the Daytona Beach sands anyway, holding an “unofficial” event that would morph into the official “Bike Week.”
The Daytona 200 revved back up in 1947, promoted by the legendary Bill France. As a teenager, France irked his folks by skipping school to make laps in the family Model T Ford, then racing home before his dad got back from work. So it was no surprise when France went on to co-found NASCAR. The official return of the Daytona 200 (also known as the “Handlebar Derby”) proved so successful that the city fathers appealed to the locals to open their homes to visiting bikers and fans. Area hotels and campgrounds were booked solid and the race boasted a record 176 riders.
The last Daytona 200 raced on the sand was in 1960. The event moved to the Daytona International Speedway in 1961. Meanwhile, Bike Week events surrounding the race grew in number and notoriety. Tensions between visiting (or “invading,” some argued) bikers, locals and law enforcement grew, prompting a mid-1980s task force organized by the city and the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce. Understanding the economic impact of Bike Week, they set out to make the event a bit more community-friendly. Today, Bike Week remains as rowdy as ever. But it’s organized in a way that keeps both the locals and the visiting motorcycling enthusiasts (who come from around the world) happy.
If you’re headed to Daytona next weekend, be sure to stock up on a set of E3 motorcycle spark plugs before hitting the road. Drive safe, party responsibly and raise a toast to Ed “Iron Man” Kretz.