Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

The road to Dover

Delaware track plays host to the Chase, but area has more than just racing to offer NASCAR fans

September 22, 2005


They are the Lucky 10, the racetracks that host races in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship.

The Chase started in New Hampshire on Sept. 18 and ends in Homestead, Fla., in November.

The road to the Chase championship also goes through Dover, Del., where Sunday's MBNA RacePoints 400 will be held.

The Chase format has been successful in stimulating interest in the Cup series during the fall, when NASCAR is competing for attention with the NFL, college football and major league baseball.

After the season's first 26 races, the top-10 drivers in points qualify for the Chase. Then their points totals are erased, and each Chaser is separated by just five points.

Tracks don't campaign to get Chase races. The Lucky 10 are the last 10 races.

Dover, in central Delaware, has hosted two Cup races since 1971. Delaware is a small state, but it's big in the Chase.

"The last 10 races of the Chase get special attention," said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports Inc. "We're really happy to be part of that. In the old days, it was very hard for Dover, here in the northeast, to get attention.

"The whole NASCAR world has morphed into this national footprint and major media markets are where it's all happening. While Delaware itself isn't a major media market, Philadelphia is and so are Baltimore and Washington, which are also nearby."

Dover International Speedway, with its 140,000 seats, is situated just off U.S. Route 13. The surrounding area is typical America, with chain restaurants, gas stations and stores. Delaware State University is on the west side of Route 13. Dover Air Base is just south of the speedway.

Dover facts and figures Top Cup race winners at Dover ¢ Bobby Allison and Richard Petty have seven each. ¢ Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Ricky Rudd have the most wins among active drivers, four each. ¢ Sweeps: Ryan Newman (2003), Jimmie Johnson (2002), Tony Stewart (2000), Jeff Gordon (1996), Rusty Wallace (1994) have won two Dover races in the same season.

Facts about Delaware Population: 830,364 (based on 2003 U.S. Census); Dover 32,808. State capital: Dover. Largest city: Wilmington: 72,051. State bird: Blue Hen chicken. Fact: Delaware is known as the First State because it was the first state to ratify the Constitution.

A casino and a hotel also are on the speedway's grounds. Racing and casinos are enough to keep many people busy, but McGlynn says visitors who don't wander away from the racetrack are missing a lot.

"When I came here from New York in 1970, I found a slower pace of life that's very low stress," McGlynn said. "In New York, every day's a hassle. Just going to the cleaners, you can get into three arguments. Here, you're within reach of everything you want to do. There's a lot to do here. There's no reason not to like it here."

Delaware's beaches are just 45 minutes away from Dover. A national wildlife preserve is east of the track. Sambo's is a popular rustic restaurant in nearby Leipsic, Del., where crabs are kings.

McGlynn and his wife, Louise, arrived in Dover in 1972 after he served as an Air Force officer.

Back then, the speedway only had 22,000 seats.

Dover Motorsports also owns racetracks in Nashville, Memphis and the St. Louis area. McGlynn also is president and CEO of Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment Inc.

"It never occurred to me that it's a big business, until somebody brings it up," he said. "For me, it's doing what I've been doing for the last 33 years. You just don't realize it when you see it every day. But there are some mornings when I see the hotel and the casino and the massive grandstand, it occasionally strikes me. (I think) 'This is a long way from where it was in 1972 when I started here.' "

One thing McGlynn learned was to handle criticism by some Cup series drivers when in the mid-1990s the track installed concrete as the racing surface on its "Monster Mile."

"Dale Earnhardt used to say it was like driving on sidewalks," McGlynn said, chuckling.

Drivers and their crews have adjusted to the concrete. Whether they like it or not, they deal with it, especially in late September because the Chase is on.


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