No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driver Mark Martin remembers his first race at Dover International Speedway in the Mason-Dixon 500 on May 16, 1982.
The 23-year-old rookie driver from Batesville, Ark. started seventh in the 32-car field and finished fifth just four laps behind winner Bobby Allison. At the end of the four-hour and nine-minute race, Allison enjoyed a three lap cushion over second- and third-place finishers Dave Marcis and Dale Earnhardt.
Only 14 cars were on the track when the checkered flag fell. But Martin was one of them and he knew then that he liked the place.
“I remember going there in 1982 and remember how much fun it was to drive,” recalled Martin who went on to win four Sprint Cup poles and races at the “Monster Mile.”
There are a lot of differences between Dover then and now - a more competitive field, tons more seats, the addition of a 46-foot Monster statue, and the race is shorter race by 100 miles. The greatest change might be the asphalt track from the 1980s was concreted in the mid 1990s.
“It was a better place to race on when it was asphalt which is true for all tracks,” said Martin. “On asphalt you can slip and slide the car around more than you can on concrete. But, Dover is so awesome that even in concrete it is good.
“Now, if I was the track owner then every one of my tracks would be concrete so I wouldn’t have to repave it every 10 years.”
Martin is in his first year driving a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota on a limited schedule. He’s already claimed two poles in his nine races and posted four top-10 finishes. He’ll look to make those numbers even better this weekend in Delaware.
“Dover is one of my very favorite race tracks. It’s fun now and it always has been fun. It’s a place where I’ve always gotten above average results. I really like it. I can’t wait to drive (crew chief) Rodney’s (Childers) car there. I think we’ll be super strong and have a shot to win the thing.”