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Could Dover be on the NASCAR Schedule Chopping Block?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

The future of the NASCAR schedule is about as uncertain as ever given how many races NASCAR has shuffled around in recent years. Dover Motor Speedway is one race track that has gotten the short end of the stick, losing one of its two race dates. Now, it only has one race, held in the springtime. Given NASCAR’s future aspirations, could Dover be on the NASCAR chopping block?

  • Dover Motor Speedway is a 1.0-mile track located in Dover, Deleware. It’s held NASCAR’s top division since 1969, the year the track opened.
  • However, SMI and NASCAR have interesting aspirations for the future of the schedule. Those dates have to come from somewhere, and, is Dover the next place to fall?
  • Fans are not necessarily calling for Dover to leave the schedule. That, combined with other factors means that Dover leaving the schedule is far from a done deal.

Recent Years at Dover

Dover Motor Speedway has notably declined in prominence in recent years. Like many other tracks around the country. Dover was forced to tear down multiple sections of grandstands as attendance dwindled. After pulling crowds as high as 150,000 during the 2000s, Dover now boasts a seating capacity of only 58,500 according to the track’s website. The 2021 race, the last one to be held on its’ scheduled date, was not even close to being sold out.

In 2021, NASCAR and track owner, Dover Motorsports, took one away one date from Dover, moving it to the burgeoning NASCAR market of Nashville and Nashville Superspeedway. Dover had one race, scheduled for mid-May.

At the end of the 2021 season, Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought out Dover Motorsports. Dover became an official SMI venue, alongside its’ sister track, Nashville Superspeedway.

The race was moved up a few weeks for the 2022 season. A race in the middle of springtime attracted those typical spring rain showers as Dover has postponed each of its last two races due to rain. Obviously, not the track’s fault, but, a metaphor for what happened to a venue that just isn’t what it once was.

NASCAR’s Schedule Changes and Aspirations

Dover losing a date was a consequence of NASCAR changing its’ schedule. It’s alongside the likes of Pocono, Michigan, and New Hampshire as tracks to go from 2 dates to one. However, NASCAR is not done here.

NASCAR hopes to go racing internationally as soon as 2025, and they also have committed to a race in Southern California. NASCAR has no international races on the 2024 schedule, and the only race in Southern California was the non-points Clash at the LA Coliseum. If NASCAR wants to race there, each of these dates has to come from somewhere.

SMI has aspirations as well. Many fans are calling for North Wilkesboro to receive a regular season date, and North Wilkesboro is a track that SMI owns. That date would have to come at the expense of an SMI track. However, the current state of the short track package has caused some to think again about adding another short track to the regular season.

All that to say, these dates have to come from somewhere, and NASCAR is running out of race tracks to take dates away from. Steve Phelps has publicly stated that NASCAR will look at taking dates away from tracks with multiple races that do not sell out.

Richmond is a track that many think could lose a date soon, but, what other tracks with two dates can get rid of a date? Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta all have immensely popular racing products with high TV ratings, Martinsville has multiple recent sellouts, Las Vegas and Kansas are great showcases for the Next-Gen car, Bristol still brings in over 100,000 people for the Night Race, and Darlington is a classic NASCAR venue.

Now, look at Dover, a track that has not sold out a non-COVID race this decade. Even the races hampered by weather the past two seasons were not announced as sellouts beforehand. Is there a reason for SMI to look at leaving Dover?

The Local Market

Dover Motor Speedway is in Dover, Deleware, which sits close to a pair of major markets, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. However, both of those markets have tracks fairly close by, Pocono is just over 2 hours from Philadelphia and Richmond is the same distance from Washington D.C.

Neither market is considered NASCAR-country anyway. Dover also has no other major professional sports team aside from NASCAR. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the place a bad NASCAR market.

If the local community supports NASCAR, then it’s a great place for NASCAR. Again the last two races have been hampered by rain, so, it’s tough to tell exactly how well Dover is doing with the local market. The 2024 weekend will be a big test for Dover, should the weather finally cooperate.

Is Dover on the chopping block? Nothing has been reported to say so, and the track hasn’t had a fair shake the last couple of years. However, if the track does struggle, NASCAR’s aspirations could put Dover on the chopping block.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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