Raw Power: The Gritty Allure of Sand in Your LeathersS

For years, the Daytona 200 wasn't merely run at Daytona Beach. Like other insanely loud, high-speed battles on the central Florida coast, the 200 was run on Daytona Beach.

In 1948, LIFE magazine covered the races, reporting that "for four days the resort city of Daytona Beach could hardly have been noisier — or in more danger — if it had been under bombardment." As if proof was needed that the young sport appealed largely to wildlings, Race Week that year witnessed two people killed and 30 more injured amid all the madcap fun.

[See the full gallery, "LIFE at Daytona: Motorcycle Racing on the Florida Sands."]

The 1948 event, which attracted "375 helmeted daredevils and plenty of non-racing hell-raisers," was marred not only by death and injury but by classic knuckleheadism — as LIFE duly (and somewhat primly) noted: "Because the antics of an unruly minority reflect on the dignity of motorcycling, the American Motorcycle Association may hire special police at future races. One duty will be to restrain sophomoric cyclists who amused themselves this year by tossing firecrackers into the crowd."

Firecrackers. Heh heh. Cool.

Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his weekly (and occasionally more frequent) feature for The Stacks.

Photo Credit: Joseph Scherschel—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images