New venue, familiar face in victory lane

Sunday, July 6, 1969 – NASCAR’s premier series added a new venue to the schedule but at the end of the day it was a familiar face in the winner’s circle – Richard Petty captured the inaugural Mason-Dixon 300 at Dover International Speedway. It was the fifth win of the season for Petty, who had a six-lap advantage on runner-up Sonny Hutchins at the finish.

The race was contested just two days after teams had run the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Because it was a new venue, tire issues were frequent – David Pearson was leading the race when he suffered a tire failure on lap 64 and sent his car hard into the wall.  Lee Roy Yarbrough battled Petty for the top spot for nearly 100 laps before a blown tire sent the Junior Johnson-owned entry to the garage and out of contention.

Yarbrough’s entry was dealt a mechanical blow during practice when the drive shaft in his entry failed. Pearson’s Holman-Moody group stepped up and provided the Johnson team with the necessary parts to make repairs.

Four days after the Dover debut, the series was competing again, this time at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway.

Allison endures heat for Dover win

Sunday, June 6, 1971 – On a broiling day that saw some of NASCAR’s top stars sidelined by fatigue, Bobby Allison persevered to collect his 20th career win in the premier series with a victory in the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway. The temperature in Dover, Del. exceeded 90 degrees – inside the cars it was said to be as high as 140. Allison took the checkered flag a full lap ahead of the runner-up entry of Richard Petty.

Fred Lorenzen was credited with the runner-up although he was replaced by Bobby Isaac with 60 laps remaining; Isaac had gotten out of his own car, which was taken over by Pete Hamilton. Petty was credited with a third-place finish – he was replaced by fellow Petty Enterprises driver Buddy Baker who had fallen out just past the halfway point with an engine issue.

The race remains the only caution-free Cup race at Dover. In spite of a lack of yellow flags, the race still took 4 hr., 30 min. to complete.

Allison’s Holman-Moody team had planned to run a Mercury in the race, but Ralph Moody said team made a last-minute call to switch and raced a Ford instead.

To help cool their driver, the pit crew sprayed Allison with a water hose during pit stops.

Allison’s winning average speed of 123.119 mph was a record for a 1-mile track.

Lotto winner hits the race track

Sunday, June 5, 1988 – Michigan Lottery winner Jay Sommers qualified 36th and finished 37th in the Budweiser 500 at Dover International Speedway in his only NASCAR premier series start. The 21-year-old Sterling Heights, Mich., native had hoped to make his debut at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway earlier that year but failed to qualify in his No. 78 Chevrolet.

Sommers bought one of what turned out to be five winning Michigan Super Lotto jackpot tickets in January. He used his share, which came to $4.6 million after taxes, to fund his racing career. He had one previous ARCA start, finishing 34th at Atlanta in 1987, before making two more starts in that series at Daytona and Atlanta in ’88. He finished fourth at Daytona.

Sommers purchased a car and equipment from Hoss Ellington after collecting his share of the lottery winnings to go Cup racing.

Besides failing to qualify at North Wilkesboro, Sommers also missed making the field at Michigan, Richmond and Atlanta that season.

Sommers’ final NASCAR start came in 2003 while driving for team owner Johnny Davis. He finished 28th in the Food City 250 XFINITY Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

A fourth and final win for Schrader

Sunday, June 2, 1991 – Hendrick Motorsports driver Ken Schrader led the final 78 laps to collect the win in the Budweiser 500 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. It was the second win of the season for the driver of the No. 25 Kodiak Chevrolet and the fourth of his career. It would also be his final NASCAR Cup Series win.

All four of Schrader’s NASCAR Cup victories came with team owner Rick Hendrick. Schrader won at Talladega, Charlotte and Atlanta as well as Dover.

Schrader, who had 763 career starts before leaving NASCAR after the 2013 season, made more than 550 more starts following his final win.

Schrader’s win came when Dover still hosted 500-mile races and when the track was still asphalt. The track’s two annual NASCAR Cup races weren’t cut to 400 laps until the fall race of ’97. The asphalt surface was replaced with concrete in 1995.

The Budweiser 500 was the first NASCAR Cup start for future champion Bobby Labonte. He finished 34th in the family-owned No. 14 Slim Jim Oldsmobile.

Michael Waltrip started on the pole for the first time in his premier series career in the Budweiser 500; he eventually fell out and finished 32nd due to engine trouble.

The race was the final premier series start for Tommy Ellis, who had been filling in for Geoff Bodine in the No. 97 Flossie Johnson “owned” entry. Bodine returned to the driver’s seat the following week but it was several more weeks before the car featured its original No. 11 on the sides and top. The changes had come about after a penalty was levied against Junior Johnson and the veteran team owner had been suspended by NASCAR.

Sabates’ team unloads protest car at Dover

Friday, May 31, 1996 – Kyle Petty and his SABCO Racing teammates unloaded with a new, and yet familiar, paint scheme at Dover International Speedway as the No. 42 Pontiac was painted all black instead of its usual blue and red with yellow piping. The change for the Miller 500 was ordered by team owner Felix Sabates, who was incensed over a multi-lap penalty accessed to the team during the previous week’s running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Petty had been held in the penalty box for five laps at Charlotte following contact with Ted Musgrave during a restart that ignited a multicar crash on the frontstretch. Sabates’ argument with a NASCAR official, which took place on pit road during the caution, resulted in Petty being held two addition laps.

The black color scheme was intentionally painted to look like that used by Richard Childress Racing for its No. 3 Chevrolet with driver Dale Earnhardt.

Sabates said Earnhardt had made similar contact with another driver earlier that season only to have NASCAR officials rule the contact “a racing incident” with no penalty.

In addition to the paint scheme, the phrase “Todo es justo en amor y carreras,” was painted just behind and below the driver’s side window opening. The English translation is ‘Everything is fair in love and careers.’ The team’s pit crew also wore black uniforms at Dover.

The paint schemes might have been somewhat similar at Dover, but the finishing results were not: Earnhardt finished third while Petty placed 18th in what was officially listed as the No. 42 Coors Light Protest Pontiac.

Quick results for Bonnett, Wood Brothers

Sunday, May 20, 1979 – It took Neil Bonnett only three races with the Wood Brothers to show that their belief in his talent wasn’t misplaced as Bonnett put the famed No. 21 Mercury in victory lane when he won the Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover International Speedway. Bonnett beat Cale Yarborough for his third career win in the series, thanks to a late caution that erased Yarborough’s 10-second lead.

Bonnett replaced three-time series champ David Pearson in the No. 21; Pearson and the team had split following a pit road miscue at Darlington.

Bonnett split with team owner Jim Stacy just three races into the ’79 season and seemed destined for a career in the local bullrings of the southeast. He said after the Dover win that he was “outside mounting tires” on his Late Model car when the Wood Brothers called to see if he was interested in driving for the team.

Yarborough did not pit under the final caution, brought out when J.D. McDuffie was hit by Ricky Rudd, who had blown a tire. Bonnett did pit, and the fresh tires and quick pit work by the Woods proved to be the difference.

Yarborough had Bonnett a lap down earlier but ran out of gas and had to pit, thus allowing Bonnett to get back on the lead lap.

Darrell Waltrip suffered an engine failure, but his DiGard team reportedly replaced the piece in 18 minutes to get their driver back out on the track.