The Miles Used to Be More of a Monster

Jimmie Johnson (right) has won more times (9) at Dover than anyone else, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also won there.  (Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo  for Chevy Racing)

Jimmie Johnson (right) has won more times (9) at Dover than anyone else, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has also won there. (Rusty Jarrett/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

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.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

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.

Jeff Gordon won the most recent race at Dover and once won three in a row. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Jeff Gordon won the most recent race at Dover and once won three in a row. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

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

 

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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8 Responses to The Miles Used to Be More of a Monster

  1. tim says:

    Hey Monte—I miss David Poole and Jack Flowers.

  2. Monte says:

    We tend to be that way with people who have died. David and I did lots together. Jack and I weren’t as close, but we were around each other a lot, and one year, when Jack bunked in the same condo as I for two or three days, we really enjoyed each other’s company.

  3. Dave Fulton says:

    I’ve never thought the racing at Dover was as good since the track went concrete.

    I was lucky to be on pit road at Dover 34 years ago in 1981 when my hometown Richmond car owner, Junie Donlavey and driver, Jody Ridley scored their only Winston Cup win. The only thing close was Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona 500 win, but Dover was better.

  4. Dave Fulton says:

    My longtime racing buddy, Frank Buhrman in Pennsylvania got to Dover long before I did. 44 years ago, on May 2, 1971, at Dover, Frank watched one of the most curious races he ever attended. Below is his recollection e-mailed to me just last night:

    Looking back nearly 50 years, it’s surprising that so many of my “great race” memories were from the short-lived NASCAR Grand American division, created for the original generation of Camaros, Mustangs, Firebirds, Javelins, Cougars and so on. One of those memorable GA races was the 1971 Diamond State 250 at Dover Downs.

    It’s most memorable element was the race winning driver being someone nobody knew was driving the winning car. I’ll give my “cloudy memory” account and hope it serves as an interesting counterpoint to this weekend’s Dover activities.

    My life as a race fan has centered on what is today Richmond International Raceway and dates back to the Richmond 250 on the fairgrounds dirt in 1963, but in the early 1970s I was in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at Cape May, N.J., so Dover Downs briefly became my “home track.”

    We saw one or two Grand National races there, but nothing could compare to the 1971 Diamond State 250 NASCAR Grand American race. It was one of those races where you were cursed as soon as you got the lead – either a wreck or a blown engine was coming, soon! Misfortune overtook most of the series regulars early on, leading to more and more obscure drivers leading, at times by large numbers of laps. When else can you recall long-time loyal NASCAR independent E.J. Trivette way out in front?

    Richmond modified great (and Junie Donlavey GN driver) Sonny Hutchins, driving a borrowed car, threatened
    to run away with everything until his ride met an untimely end. The parade of ever-more obscure leaders ended with a Camaro #30 driven (we thought) by Krueger Johnson from Georgia. So when Mr. Johnson pulled into victory lane, the announcer greeted him with something like, “Well, Krueger, this is kind of a surprise to the rest of us. How does it feel to you to be the winner of the Diamond State 250?”

    The response was what caught all of us off guard.

    “The fact is, I’m not Krueger Johnson,” the winner said. “I’m Frank Brantley. Krueger got sick and asked me to drive the car.” (It might have been back trouble and not sickness, but then again, for all my memory’s worth, it might be his dog died.) I had actually heard of Brantley, thanks to Hank Schoolfield and Southern MotoRacing, but the “mystery” driver angle continues to make the Diamond State 250 one of the more memorable races I’ve seen.

    As I recall, Brantley drove another couple of GA races, maybe in the #30, but the team faded from sight pretty quickly – maybe they had trouble figuring out who got to keep the trophy. I was really sorry when the GA division folded. Guys like Wayne Andrews, Frank Sessoms, Al Straub (a Kentuckian who at least once entered a backup car driven by a very young Darrell Waltrip), C.B. Gwyn and others had a chance to show their stuff, and they always seemed to put on a good show.

    Maybe the blessing was that the division didn’t stick around long enough for NASCAR to start messing with the rules and screwing it all up.

  5. Duane says:

    Mr. Dutton , thanks for the great work as usual. One question for you I know you said you didn’t know Jack Flowers well. Would you recommend reading his last book? Plus I think all us fans of yours agree you need your own racing radio show, just so we can get the real picture. Not the rose colored glasses wearing Kool aid drinkers we have now.

  6. Tim S. says:

    I’d listen religiously to a Monte Dutton/Dave Fulton radio show full of stories like those above.

  7. Monte says:

    Uh, I knew Jack well, but we didn’t often confide. I can’t recommend a book I haven’t read. It’s been a while since I read many NASCAR books.
    Lots of people want me to have a radio show. None of them is in a position to make it happen.

  8. tim says:

    Hey Guy’s , By the time Jack Flower’s wrote, The Dirt Under The Asphalt, he was pretty much anti NASCAR. Anybody that knew Jack knew he was pretty much outspoken about everything. It is a bunch of stories from years ago to the 2000’s. Some of them quite true, some questionable. A few accusations of the France family from Bill to of coarse Brian. It’s a fun little quick little read that was undeniably a “Say it with Flowers” special edition. tim

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