Top 5 NASCAR moments from Dover International Speedway
Dover International Speedway, AKA “The Monster Mile,” has been on the NASCAR circuit since 1969 and hosted 192 races across all three national series.
Let’s get started.
1) Dale Jr. wins after 9/11
Twelve days after the world changed with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NASCAR Cup Series returned to racing.
After the postponement of a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the series took the green flag at Dover with a field of full of patriotic paint schemes.
After leading 193 of 400 laps, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag for his second emotional win of the year, following his victory at Daytona two months earlier in the first Cup race there since his father’s death after a last-lap crash in the Daytona 500.
Earnhardt celebrated his Dover win by parading around the track with a large American flag.
2) 1 in 863 (1981)
Team owner Junie Donlavey fielded 863 entries in the Cup Series, from the Oct. 15, 1950 race at Martinsville Speedway to the Oct. 13, 2002 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In-between, cars owned by the Virginia-native went to Victory Lane just once.
It took 31 years for it to happen and it came on May 17, 1981.
Jody Ridley, a native of Chatsworth, Georgia, piloted Donlavey’s No. 90 Ford.
Ridley’s surprise win came after what NASCAR admitted was “scoring communications difficulty” during the last 50 laps around the 1-mile track, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”
Neil Bonnett had led 403 laps before his engine expired, giving the lead to Cale Yarborough, who was scored as leading Ridley by five laps. Yarborough’s engine then expired with 20 laps to go, giving the presumed lead to Ridley, who won over Bobby Allison.
Scoring mixups included D.K. Ulrich being scored 14 laps down in fourth with 10 laps to go before finishing nine laps down.
Allison’s team protested the outcome, saying they finished a lap ahead of Ridley. But Ridley’s win was upheld 20 minutes after the race upon a review of scoring cards.
Ridley wouldn’t win again in his Cup career, which ended in 1986.
3. Back in the saddle (2006)
Jeff Burton was in a significant drought.
He hadn’t visited Victory Lane in the Cup Series in almost five years, last winning in the October 2001 race at Phoenix Raceway deep into his run with Roush Fenway Racing.
But on Sept. 24, 2006, Burton was in his second full-time season with Richard Childress Racing, having moved there late in the 2004 season.
Burton put an end to his drought in decisive fashion, coming out on top following a riveting battle with former teammate Matt Kenseth inside 20 laps to go. Burton took the lead with six laps remaining and raced away as Kenseth ran out of gas four laps later.
4. Kyle Busch rains on Chase Elliott’s parade (2017)
In 2017, Chase Elliott was three quarters of the way through his second full-time Cup season and had yet to visit Victory Lane.
His closest opportunity came in the October race at Dover.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver had led 138 of 400 laps and was the leader when he crossed the start-finish line with two laps to go.
But Elliott had two problems: lapped traffic and Kyle Busch.
The lapped traffic helped Busch catch Elliott and pass him in Turn 4 coming the white flag - on the outside.
Busch cruised to the win while Elliott would have to wait until the 2018 race at Watkins Glen to get victory No. 1.
5. Ryan Newman: Lucky Dog (2003)
Many rules that define NASCAR heading into the 2020s had to start somewhere.
The “Lucky Dog,” where the first car a lap down gets its lap back when the caution is issued, was introduced in September 2003 at Dover. It was meant as a deterrent to keep drivers from racing back to the yellow. Now the field would be frozen.
While the new rule drew mostly praise from competitors, a driver who wasn’t exactly a fan of it was Ryan Newman.
“I understand where NASCAR is coming from, but the problem is, it has opened up a whole different can of worms when it comes to the gray area,” Newman said that week, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Newman started fifth and led 33 of the first 44 laps before he was forced to pit under green for a tire going down, putting him a lap down.
Newman returned to the lead lap on Lap 288 of 400 thanks to a debris caution. He then topped off on fuel three times before the race resumed. He regained the lead when he stayed out of the pits during a caution on Lap 328. He went the final 106 laps without pitting and led the last 73 laps, holding off Jeremy Mayfield to score his seventh win of the year.
Even with the victory, Newman voiced his displeasure with NASCAR’s new rule.
“I just don’t want to see guys get their lap back and not earn it,” Newman said according to The Associated Press. “Once we got the lap back it was just sort of a fuel mileage race.”