You might not guess the first place Joie Chitwood III takes visitors to when touring the completely overhauled and largely first-ever stadium at Daytona International Speedway. The track’s president takes them behind the venue, outside. He finds the perfect spot—a location designed and landscaped just for moments like these—and points up to the world’s first-ever motorsports stadium. Specifically, he points to a sign.
“Daytona International Speedway” it reads, stretching across 350 feet of stadium skin with each letter 13 feet and 6 inches tall and 3,600 LED lights that backlight the sign in multiple colors.
“The sign is big and bold,” he says. “The marquee is exactly what our brand is.”
To understand the value of going large, you need a taste for what Daytona built. The most storied NASCAR track in the world, the 1959-built 2.5-mile tri-oval has served as the World Center of Racing since Bill France opened the gates in Daytona Beach, Florida. But like basically every motorsports track around, not much has changed at the speedway since. The more than 100,000 grandstand seats were still the same 15-inch-wide versions. There were no concourses. Daytona was more oversized high school grandstands than anything resembling the football-style stadiums we all know today.
That changed with the $400 million Daytona Rising project, a project that installed 101,500 brand-new (and wider) seats across the remastered steel structure to improve sight lines. And Daytona added in multiple concourses—real concourses, with doubled restrooms, tripled concessions and even escalators aplenty. Behind it all, instead of the backside of a grandstand staring out at visitors, the new Daytona Speedway looks like a stadium, with a skin.
And a gigantic sign.
Whether outside or in on the concourse level, the Daytona stadium is unlike the structures of sports played with a ball. Instead of a rounded bowl, Daytona stretches nearly one full mile. That’s one full mile of stadium, concourses and, well graphics. So Daytona did something different to break it all up. And that’s where design came to play.
Along with Chitwood’s marquee, designers from Rossetti Architects created five “injectors” to help break up the exterior. Each injector space not only serves as a gate for fans, but they also have escalators and stairs leading up from the ground floor onto the main concourse. This allowed design to take a different turn.
Instead of each injector looking the same, Daytona sold the rights to the outside four—they branded the middle injector themselves—allowing each company near full autonomy to design the skin on the outside of the building and fully activate and design inside their set space on the concourse levels. Walking the 9/10ths of a mile from end to end, visitors will pass through five fully themed “injectors,” while switching in and out of other “neighborhoods,” creating a design experience unlike any other in sports.
“This is a motorsports stadium, not a football stadium,” Chitwood says.
Toyota was the first sponsor to sign on. They’ve skinned the outside full of red and white and filled the concourse levels with interactive video displays and signage. Keith Dahl, general manager motorsports and asset management for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., says they had 100,000 square feet of vertical and horizontal space to play with.
“We had our own message,” he says. That message went oversized. With a Toyota logo soaring 100 feet off the ground on the side of the building, it stands as the largest Toyota logo in the nation.
They hung cars from the steel beams overhead the main concourse, installed interactive video walls in the middle of the concourse and skinned walls with displays telling stories about the company’s history, employees and products. Through it all, Dahl says, they had a canvas of steel and concrete to create a space just for their brand while remaining within the overall environment of something bigger. It was a chance to create a Toyota-specific venue within a venue.
The other partners have done the same. Fuel maker Sunoco and Chevrolet have injector spaces too, branded and skinned with the colors and stories of their companies. Chevy, for example, wanted to mimic what a retail dealership was like so took the blue arch from the dealership and translated that into their Daytona experience, all while backlighting signs and showcasing cars. The Daytona-branded space in the center looks different, instead of only telling a story of a brand, they allowed plenty of fan interaction with two bars on the concourse and two retails stores.
The fifth and final injector saw design take over. Florida Hospital, not a typical raceday sponsor, converted their injector into an unexpected experience within the speedway. Outside, they used the bright colors of the hospital brand to fully skin the exterior and match it with a working waterfall adjacent to the escalators. Through the theme of “creation,” the faith-based hospital has health-centric words to describe each letter and that plays through the outside and onto the inside, where signage aplenty tells the story of living healthier.
On the main concourse level, Florida Hospital used a LED canopy to craft a new environment, with images rotating to influence different moods, a relatively restful and quiet location within the wildly busy and loud environment of the world’s most well-known speedway. Through it all, Daytona’s design direction allowed for individuality of space within a larger structure.
Along with the five injectors, designers say Daytona has 11 distinct neighborhoods within the venue. To connect and unify them, the signage within Daytona is larger than any done in a stadium. “Everything, even the signage, was bigger and bigger,” Chitwood says. “We need to see it and needed it as big as possible.”
Without the curvature of a traditional stadium, the long stretches begged for oversized graphics. Chitwood didn’t want fans unsure of seating sections, restroom locations or other amenities. He didn’t want them guessing.
For the most extreme readability available, Daytona opted for the highest contrast possible, going black and white on the signs. Not only can the signs be read from long distances with the size and color scheme, but the colors also match with the traditional black-and-white of a checkered flag and don’t contrast with stylized injector spaces.
With everything so new, so big, so bold and so branded, it is no wonder that Chitwood wants fans to have the perfect place to capture it all in a photo. He wanted them to have the track’s brand—the stadium’s new face—in full view with the words “Daytona International Speedway” large enough for all to see.
Authored by legendary designers Tom Geismar, Ivan Chermayeff and Sagi Haviv, Identify is the ultimate authoritative examination of the process, approach, and principles that result, time and time again, in identity design with the potential to become iconic, and thus succeed in representing a brand in the mind of the public for generations.