With nearly 20 years of experience at some of the most recognizable venues in all of sports, Grounds Supervisor Jason Griffeth is the perfect man for the job when it comes to caring for Daytona International Speedway’s hallowed ground.
“We do everything that has do with grounds, but our main responsibility is any turf around the property,” Griffeth says. “We are affectionately known as the ‘Green Team.’”
A member of the DIS operations team since 2015, Griffeth formerly tended to another iconic sports facility – Major League Baseball’s Fenway Park.
A close-up shot gives you an idea of the meticulous work that Griffeth and his team put into the tri-oval turf.
Growing up on a potato farm in northern Maine, Griffeth didn’t always dream of caring for some of the most visible grass in all of sports.
“I got into it by accident,” Griffeth recalls. “In high school, I volunteered at a country club, and they asked me where I was going to college, and I said, ‘I guess I’ll go for this.’”
While attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Griffeth interned with the grounds crew with the Boston Red Sox, and worked with the team until 2015 before coming down to work at the “World Center of Racing.”
“There’s one story I like to tell,” Griffeth says. “I was cut from my (Little League baseball) team as a kid, and now I have three World Series rings!”
The focal point, of course, is the four-and-a-quarter-acre tri-oval field that Daytona International Speedway; is so famous for. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the DIS infield – the two-tone grass design – was initially discovered by former groundskeeper Sam Newpher.
After damage to the turf during the 2000 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the crew was forced to patch the area with a different type of rye grass than had originally been planted. When planted side-by-side, the stark contrast in color sparked the idea for a tri-oval design, which has been put into practice ever since.
The process for the new year’s design begins in early November, when Griffeth and his team will aerate the turf – poking holes in the grass to reduce compaction and get the grounds ready for new seeding.
“It facilitates air and water exchange with the soil, and you want to do it before you seed because it creates a good seed bed,” Griffeth says.
Next, they will cut the existing Bermuda grass very low to the ground to allow room for the new turf to grow.
To lay out the artistic designs of the tri-oval, Griffeth’s team calls upon Missouri Turf and Paint, who also handles a number of NFL field designs. They outline the design on the field, and the “Green Team” will come through and overseed the entire field with the appropriate grass to create the design.
In 2017, a piece of turf ended up on DAYTONA 500 champion Kurt Busch's hood - Griffeth even found time to make sure it was up to par!
After the overseed, the grass is fertilized and monitored from the time it is planted until the checkered flag of the DAYTONA 500 is waved. The track partners with a company called TruGreen to keep the tri-oval and all of the grass around the facility looking healthy and lush.
Griffeth and the "Green Team" are responsible for all of the grass and turf around the DAYTONA grounds.
“After about 7-10 days, the grass will come up and you’ll begin to see your pattern,” Griffeth says. “Then it’s just a matter of maintaining it, mowing it, thickening it up. We try to harden the plant to handle foot traffic.”
Come race week, the Daytona International Speedway logo is painted on the grass, and the tri-oval is ready for green flag.
During DAYTONA Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth, Griffeth’s team walks the field after each race to clear it of potential debris, mow the grass and blow it off to ready the turf for the next race day.
After “The Great American Race,” the tri-oval grass makes way for the DAYTONA Supercross course and Bike Week festivities.
Following Bike Week, the dirt is cleared and Celebration Bermuda is planted for the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Bermuda grass is ideal for the hot, humid Florida summers that are too tough on the rye grass used during the cooler months.
After the race in July, the Bermuda grass stays until it is ready to be aerated in November, and the process starts again for the new season.
The iconic two-tone tri-oval grass design has come to be synonymous with Daytona International Speedway.
Even when not preparing for a major race weekend, Griffeth and his team have many acres of grass to care for throughout the entire property, making upkeep a 24/7, 365 job. Whether you are parking at Lot 7 or walking the tri-oval during the pre-race concert, his team has spent hundreds of hours caring for the ground under nearly every step you take.
“This a 500-acre property, and I would say about half of it is grass,” Griffeth says.
Keeping the DAYTONA turf looking it’s best year-round is no small task, and Griffeth and his team are the best in the business.
“I have the best crew, hands down,” Griffeth says. “Those guys work.”
Today is the last day for fans to vote on the tri-oval design for the 2019 DAYTONA 500! Don't forget to make your selection for next year's design!
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