The Frontstretch: That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (Flag) Past, One Story at a Time: Racing Wasn't Always Close at Dover by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday May 29, 2006

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Dover Downs International Speedway debuted on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit in July, 1969. David Pearson started on the pole and crashed out of the race 65 laps in. Fans cheered Richard Petty on to the win in his number 43 Ford Torino by six laps. This was one of the many races in the early years of racing at Dover that finished with only one driver on the lead lap.

Two years after Richard Petty won the inaugural Mason-Dixon 300 at Dover, the race length was extended from 300 miles to 500 miles. A second 500-mile race was also added to the schedule that year. Bobby Allison endured a caution free Mason-Dixon 500 to capture his first win at Dover. His margin of victory was more than a lap over second place Fred Lorenzen. In October, 1971, the inaugural Delaware 500 was won by Richard Petty, who finished one lap ahead of Charlie Glotzbach.

The largest winning margin in a cup race ever at Dover was in the 1975 Mason-Dixon 500. David Pearson finished an astonishing seven laps ahead of the rest of the field. Pearson also won the 1972 Delaware 500 three laps ahead. Two other races finished with the winner having a three lap advantage over the other drivers. These include the 1974 Delaware 500 (won by Richard Petty) and the 1982 Mason Dixon 500 won by Bobby Allison. Also during the earlier years at Dover, six races were won by a one lap advantage.

In 1997, the race length was decreased from 500 miles to 400 miles in an effort to make the racing more competitive. Decreasing the length has definitely been a success as no driver has finished as the only car on the lead lap since. In the 17 races that have run since the distance was shortened, the largest margin of victory occurred when Bobby Labonte won the 1999 MBNA Platinum 400 by 22.071 seconds. The last 17 races have also had five finishes that were less than one-second margins. One of the closest of those finishes was in 2005 when Jimmie Johnson edged Kyle Busch by a mere 0.080 seconds.

Although there was once a day when you could count on a race at Dover finishing with just one car on the lead lap, now we can almost count on a decent race to the finish each time the Nextel Cup Series visits the Monster Mile.

Statistics about Dover Racing:

* The only caution-free race at Dover was the 1971 Mason-Dixon 500 that Bobby Allison won.
* Only three races at Dover have finished under caution (The 1983 Mason-Dixon 500 won by Bobby Allison, The 1984 Delaware 500 won by Harry Gant, and The 1994 Split Fire Spark Plug 500 won by Rusty Wallace)
* No active driver has won three races back to back at Dover (Rusty Wallace and Bobby Allison did it once apiece)

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