Does 50th anniversary evoke Monster Mile memories?

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines …

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Where were you on July 6, 1969?

We’re hoping you will say you were among the 22,000 people at Dover Downs International Speedway watching the Mason-Dixon 300.

It was NASCAR’s debut at the speedway.

Richard Petty won that first race around Dover’s high-banked mile oval. Driving a Ford, he led 150 laps and finished six laps ahead of second-place finisher Sonny Hutchins.

Since it is the 50th anniversary season at Dover, the Delaware State News would enjoy sharing your memories and nostalgia from the track’s early years.

By chance, does anyone still have a ticket stub from that July 6, 1969, race?

It would be an amazing find and a cool bit of memorabilia. Gary Camp, assistant vice president of marketing and communications for Dover International Speedway, said the staff at the track has been hoping to locate one.

Even if you didn’t go to the first race, we would love for you to share your memories of the early years of NASCAR in Dover. Old photos would be greatly appreciated, too.

With your help, we can publish a great look back at NASCAR’s time in Dover.

Email awest@newszap.com or call this editor at (302) 741-8204.

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For a number of us at the Delaware State News, our collective time around NASCAR would easily total more than a hundred years and we look forward to attending the Gander RV 400 race, which highlights the May 3-5 NASCAR weekend.

Sports editor Andy Walter has been around it since the 1980s. So has chief photographer Marc Clery.

As for me, I started with the Delaware State News on a fall race weekend in 1990.

But, among our staff, reporter Mike Finney has the earliest experiences of NASCAR in Dover. As a youngster, he went to his first race in 1971. That was back when Richard Petty and Bobby Allison began their streaks of Dover dominance.

Mr. Finney has covered more NASCAR races than anyone in the state with his time at the Delaware State News and previously at the upstate daily.

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A few days ago, Dover International Speedway released a 14-minute video, produced by Pam Miller of Fox Sports, about the track’s history.

In the first part, this editor was excited to see a Delaware State News story, under the byline of Jim Miller, that outlined then-attorney general David P. Buckson’s purchase of land and plans for horse racing and auto racing complex.

Some of the photos the Delaware State News published at the time are just priceless. I can’t imagine what people thought back then when they saw all the earth-moving equipment and the steel beams of the grandstand rising in what had been a cornfield.

Fox announcer Mike Joy, narrating the opening segment, says, “Former Governor Dave Buckson pursued a dream that would change the course of Delaware history. Fueled by his passion for horse and car racing, with some help from fellow auto racing enthusiast Melvin Joseph and his construction prowess, along with financing from John Rollins, the concept of Dover International Speeddway was born.”

All three of the founders have since passed.

Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Jimmie Johnson — the drivers with the most wins at Dover — were interviewed for the video.

“We loved taking a walk down Memory (Victory) Lane with them,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway’s president and CEO.

Mr. Petty and Mr. Allison represent the sport’s early years in Dover.

Mr. Allison, prior to coming to Dover, already had a strong friendship with Mr. Joseph.

He was amazed at the mile asphalt track that his friend had designed.

“The faster you went, the more it seemed to take your breath away,” said Mr. Allison.

Mr. Petty and Mr. Allison had seven NASCAR wins there, but Mr. Allison — with the advantage of his close friend Melvin Joseph’s horsepower — also won a harness horse race that also featured Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough in the sulkies.

“Everyone said Melvin gave me the best rig … but too bad,” says Mr. Allison.

Mr. Johnson represents the new age of racing and has been the new king of track in the concrete age with 11 wins.

“The horse racing, plus the car racing, hopefully will keep it there another 50 years,” said Mr. Johnson.

Visit doverspeedway.com/video.

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An amazing bit of early Dover nostalgia has resurfaced at a unique North Carolina museum operated by former Delawarean Chad Culver.

It’s a huge Budweiser can that sat at the start/finish line of Dover International Speedway.

Dover Motorsports, Inc. President and CEO Denis McGlynn, who has been with the track since 1971, said it was used by MRN to broadcast the race.

At a recent race weekend, he recalled how the deafening noise of the cars circling the track chased announcer Barney Hall out of there.

The Bud can will be restored and displayed at the Culver Auto Racing Museum.

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Another historic Dover-related anniversary will be celebrated this year.

It was a on July 16, 1969, that the Apollo Command Module capsule was launched by the Saturn Rocket.

On board were three astronauts, each wearing a suit that was made by ILC Dover.

Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk took place on July 21, 1969.

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Don’t forget that the Delaware State News’ fourth annual W3 ­— What Women Want Fest — is coming up Saturday, April 27, at Wild Quail Golf and Country Club, Wyoming.

The day includes vendors, food, door prizes, giveaways, a fashion show, demonstrations, and entertainment.

Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 on the day of the event.

Click on the “Events” link at delawarestatenews.net for additional information.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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