DOVER, Del. (September 16, 2003) -- Dover International Speedway, the high-banked, one-mile concrete superspeedway which the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series visits on Friday, September 19 for the MBNA America 150, has many ...
DOVER, Del. (September 16, 2003) -- Dover International Speedway, the high-banked, one-mile concrete superspeedway which the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series visits on Friday, September 19 for the MBNA America 150, has many characteristics not encountered elsewhere. It's the highest-banked track and the fastest speedway on the circuit, and the only track with any surface other than asphalt. Not surprisingly, it requires a unique combination of assets from car and driver.
The MBNA America 150 is the last of four Busch North Series races held on NASCAR Winston Cup race weekends in 2003. Practice and Bud Pole Qualifying are set for Thursday, September 18, with race time on Friday, September 19 at approximately 4:30 p.m., following qualifying for Sunday's MBNA America 400 Winston Cup event. For Busch North drivers who may have caught the eye of talent scouts during previous Winston Cup weekend appearances at New Hampshire and Watkins Glen, it's another chance to showcase their ability on a major league stage. With only two Busch North Series races left after Dover, the series' southernmost stop will also play a large role in the destination of the Busch North championship and the final invitations to the Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale Speedway in California, November 6-8.
Dover has always stood apart from other speedways, and its uniqueness increased with the change from asphalt to concrete. A symmetrical oval with turns banked at 24 degrees and straights at nine degrees, it's fast and unforgiving, a challenge to the elite of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. It deserves its nickname, "Monster Mile", but to what species does the monster belong?
"It's a real race track. If thinking about racing at Dover doesn't get you excited, you're not a real racer," stated Burnham Boilers Chevrolet driver Mike Stefanik, the current runner-up in Busch North Series points. Although he's returning to the series after a four-year hiatus, Stefanik raced at Dover in the 1998 Busch North event and has also competed in Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series races at the track. That experience is a major asset, since Dover has two racing grooves, but they're not where the first-time competitor might expect. The fast line dives down in turns one and three and rises in turns two and four to meet the straightaway, the opposite of most high-banked tracks.
"Things happen in a hurry, so you have to stay alert all the time. We had a real clean race last year, cleaner than most of the Busch Series races I ran there," observed defending champion and current point leader Andy Santerre, who took his own break from Busch North racing to compete in its southern-based counterpart, which visits Dover twice a year. In fact, the 2002 MBNA America 150 produced only three caution periods for 15 laps, with the final 90 circuits run consecutively under green. The Aubuchon/Brickmilll Chevrolet driver also noted that the addition of both horsepower and weight to the Busch North cars in 2002 will make their Dover characteristics closer to their Busch Series cousins.
Garage area discussions of Dover always produce debate over whether it puts a higher premium on horsepower or handling. Jason Weissman, crew chief for the TrustCompany Bank Chevrolet driven by Joey McCarthy, said "It takes both, but from my standpoint, give me a perfect handling car every time."
Speaking from the drivers seat, Dale Quarterley took a different viewpoint. Quarterley, who dominated at Dover in 2001 before fuel starvation on a late restart cost him the win and made up two laps after cutting a tire in 2002, declared "The great thing about Dover is that even if you don't have the handling right, you can manhandle the car through the corners if you're brave enough." Emphasizing his point, the Bully Hill Vineyards Chevrolet pilot advised that a driver with a strong motor and a heavy right foot should be able to run in the top five at Dover without ever touching the brake pedal while on the track.
It's clear that everyone has their own idea of the ingredients for success on the high banks of the "Monster Mile." Those varied recipes should produce a dish worth savoring in the MBNA America 150.
NEWS OF NOTE
* Matt Kobyluck outdueled Paul Wolfe and Martin Truex Jr. in a lengthy green-flag battle to win the 2002 MBNA America 150 at 116.179 miles per hour, making it the fastest Busch North Series race ever run. The moment of truth came on lap 139 when Kobyluck took the lead by going three-wide with Wolfe and Bill Penfold, who was being put one lap down. Greg Schaefer, who led 25 mid-race laps, was a strong forth with Tracy Gordon fifth. Dale Quarterley was the fastest car on the track after cutting a tire and losing two laps, but could only make it back to 11th place, the last car on the lead lap.
* Paul Wolfe's 2002 Bud Pole winning performance at 24.315 seconds, 148.057 miles per hour was the fastest qualifying lap in Busch North Series history.
* The Busch North Series returned to Dover in 2001 after a two-year absence with Dale Shaw scoring the win over Bryan Wall, Dennis Demers, Jamie Aube, and Tom Carey. Dale Quarterley was two laps from victory when fuel starvation on a green-white-checker restart dropped him to sixth.
* The official name of the track was changed from "Dover Downs International Speedway" to "Dover International Speedway" in 2002.
*Dover Downs opened in 1969 as a dual-purpose auto racing and horse racing facility, a distinction it retains today. It is part of the Winston Cup "Class of '69" which also includes Talladega and Michigan International Speedway. While the track's geometry has never changed, its character and appearance were radically altered when the concrete surface was applied in 1995.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The first Busch North Series race at Dover was run in tropical heat on July 18, 1998, as part of a weekend that also featured the Indy Racing League. Jimmy Spencer started last as a result of a post-qualifying technical violation, but took the lead before halfway and outdistanced Jamie Aube, Brad Leighton, Jerry Marquis, and Bryan Wall. Aube edged Leighton the final lap to be first among series regulars.
What: MBNA America 150, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series race #16 of 18
Where: Dover International Speedway, Dover, Del.
When: Friday, September 19, 2003, 4:30 p.m. (approx.)
Track layout: 1.00 mile high-banked concrete oval
Race distance: 150 laps, 150 miles
Television: SPEED Channel, Saturday, October 4, 10:00 a.m.
Schedule: Thursday, Sept. 18- Practice 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. & 1:15-1:45 p.m., Bud Pole Qualifying 3:15 p.m., followed one hour final practice as time permits; Friday, Sept. 19 0x2022 MBNA America 150 4:30 p.m. (approx.)