Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 29, 2015, 2:46 p.m.
From the first time I went there in the early 1990s, I liked Dover. It was Dover Downs back then, but now the downs are just where harness racing is held, officially, and the track I like even more because it is run at a reasonable distance.
The last 500 miles/laps race at Dover scared me because it was a fine race, and I thought to myself, well, now Denis McGlynn will change his mind.
As a general rule, I’m not in favor of shortening Sprint Cup races. I think endurance and concentration separate Cup drivers from the rest, and that’s the way it should be, and if Cup races were shortened to, say, 300 miles or laps in the case of short tracks, I’d hate to see Xfinity and Truck races shortened to 100 or 150, and I’d hate it just as much if they were roughly the same length as Cup races.
Four hundred miles works just fine for Dover, and, once upon a time, it worked for Rockingham, though, by all available evidence, not well enough.
In the old days – the last 500-miler was on June 1, 1997, won by Ricky Rudd – I’d sit up in the press box and watch David Poole play a simulated golf game, Jim McLaurin work crosswords, and Larry Woody read a novel. I couldn’t bring myself to divert my attentions thusly, but, then again, that was relatively early in my NASCAR-writing career, and I was a bit more doctrinaire, as young writers tend to be.
My attention just withered the old-fashioned ways.
We called each race The 24 Hours of Dover.
Perhaps my favorite beginning of a race advance went something like this:
The spectacle of Winston Cup stock cars diving like fighter jets into the bleached banking of Dover Downs International Speedway is breathtaking.
Unfortunately, it will happen 1,000 times in Sunday’s MBNA 500.
I like Dover because it’s different, and watching those cars roar through the turns is exciting. It’s a little like my favorite track, Darlington Raceway, in that, to me, it almost doesn’t matter if a driver is running away with the race. Just watching the cars go around and around is interesting, and there’s always something to see. Darlington is narrow and perilous, and it’s gotten even more so since the SAFER barriers took up a small portion of the room cars used to be able to use to get through the turns. That space is negligible everywhere but Darlington.
Dover has always been the Monster Mile. I wish it was the White Cliffs of Dover. Those concrete banks are massive. I also like watching the cars come off turn four – the press-box view is from turn one – and ride a little hump that confronts them as they seem to descend onto the front straight.
I miss the women who work in the press box and infield media center. Dover is a friendly place. I miss playing songs near the entrance to the slots casino. I miss the Monday, after a rain-delayed race, when I hit those slots for some big money. I was superstitious. I had this theory that they tightened the slots when all the race fans descended, so I only gambled on Thursday when I got there and Monday when I was headed to the airport. I’ve no evidence that it was true, only that it worked pretty well for me. If I lost money at Dover, it was never much.
I can’t remember the last time I gambled. It was probably the last time I went to Dover, in September of 2012. There’s not much gambling here in Clinton because, as I’m sure you know, parlay cards are for amusement purposes only.
I hope you’ll take an occasional look at my, uh, “literary” blog site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and consider buying one or more of my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1