NASCAR founder William France Sr. began planning for the track in 1953 as a way to promote the series, which at the time was racing on the Daytona Beach Road Course. France met with Daytona Beach engineer Charles Moneypenney to discuss his plans for the speedway. He wanted the track to have the highest banking possible to allow the cars to reach high speeds and to give fans a better view of the cars on track. Moneypenny traveled to Detroit, Michigan to visit the Ford Proving Grounds which had a high speed test track with banked corners. Ford shared their engineering reports of the track with Moneypenney, providing the needed details of how to transition the pavement from a flat straightaway to a banked corner. France took the plans to the Daytona Beach city commission, who supported his idea and formed the Daytona Beach Speedway Authority.Daytona International Speedway following the repaving of the track in 2010
The city commission agreed to lease the 447 acres (181 ha) parcel of land adjacent to Daytona Beach International Airport to France's corporation for $10,000 a year over a 50 year period. France then began working on building funding for the project and found support from a Texas oil millionaire, Clint Murchison. Murchison loaned France $600,000 along with the construction equipment necessary to build the track. France was also able to secure funding from Pepsi-Cola, General Motors designer Harley Earl, a second mortgage on his home and selling 300,000 stock shares to local residents. Ground broke on construction of the 2.5-mile (4.0 km) speedway on November 25, 1957.
To build the high banking, crews had to dig out millions of tons of soil from the tracks infield. Because of the high water table in the area, the hole that was excavated filled with water to form what is now known as Lake Lloyd, named after Joseph Saxton "Sax" Lloyd, one of the original six members of the Daytona Beach Speedway Authority. 22 tons of limerock had to be brought in to form the track's binding base, where the asphalt would be laid on top. Because of the extreme degree of banking, Moneypenney had to come up with a way to pave the incline. He connected the paving equipment to bulldozers that were anchored at the top of the banking. This would allow the paving equipment to pave the banking without slipping or rolling down the incline. Moneypenney subsequently patented his construction method and later designed Talladega Superspeedway and Michigan International Speedway. By December 1958, France had begun to run out of money and started relying on race ticket sales to complete construction.
The first practice runs on the new track began on February 6, 1959. One February 22, 1959, 42,000 people attended the inaugural Daytona 500. When the track opened it was the fastest race track to ever host a stock car race, until Talladega Superspeedway opened 10 years later.
Lights were installed around the track in 1998 to run NASCAR's July race, the Coke Zero 400 at night. The track was the worlds largest single lighted outdoor sports facility until being surpassed by Losail International Circuit in 2008. Musco Lighting installed the lighting system, which took into account glare and visibility for aircraft arriving and departing nearby Daytona Beach International Airport, and costs about $240 per hour when in operation.