"Official Track Press Release"-Tons of Info at www.doverdragstrip.com
IT AIN’T OVER FOR DOVER
INAUGURAL NOSTALGIA RACE FOR DOVER DRAG STRIP WELL ATTENDED
What is the connection with the following items: six months, 100 miles and over 3 decades. Give up? Well, the late Dover Drag Strip in Wingdale New York opened about six months after Island Dragway debuted in Great Meadows New Jersey. The two strips were about one hundred miles distant from each other. And after more than three decades since the last car ran down the Dover asphalt, the gang was back together again at the First Dover Drag Strip Nostalgia Drags at Island Dragway. Thanks to the efforts of a large number of people who were connected with the Dover facility, this first in what is hoped to be an ongoing series of annual events pulled in a large crowd of old timers from up north as well as local racers looking for some action in the nostalgia category. Lead by the likes of self-proclaimed track historian Brian Marasco and the lunatic PR/announcer guy Dino Lawrence, the day’s event provided a ton of memories for those who used to race Dover, and a great opportunity to be reacquainted with old friends and make some new ones. There was a gaggle of old time race cars on display and many that were updated to allow them to compete in the on-track action. Cold weather and great traction took its toll on some of the equipment, but that did not stop the majority of competitors from making runs down the quarter mile, some for the first time in almost thirty-five years.
Nothing good happens by chance, and a reunion race like this one is no exception. With assistance from the major sponsor, Drag Racer Magazine, and help from the folks at Moroso Performance, City Carting and M&M Speed and Custom, the program include four categorys of racing for the four-wheeled entries and an added bracket for two-wheelers. The largest class was for cars dating back to 76 or older, categorized as Vintage class, and contained almost one hundred entries. The 76 and newer group, referred to as New was well stocked with entries, and the 4-speed class had a surprising number of competitors vying for the title. The smallest, but fastest, class was classified as Comp Eliminator, and was populated largely by dragsters, altereds and roadsters. There were a few special awards handed out as well, like the long distance honors that went to Tom Blake out of Lakeland Florida who made the trip north with his Chevy-powered Mustang twice. He went home empty after the original date for the race was rained out and came back for the reschedule. His efforts earned him the trophy for longest tow and he managed a runner-up finish in the Dover New bracket.
Starting with the huge field in Vintage, at the end of the day the trophy belonged to Wingdale NY’s Charles Romeo and his Camaro. Romeo bested the Corvette of Art Regan in the quarter finals of the bracket and advanced to race the 41 Willys gasser of John Olcott in the semis. The Camaro earned a trip to the title race via a lot of luck as Olcott’s gas machine hung a hole shot on the Chevy but ran into mid-range trouble and slowed to a sixteen second run that allowed the Hugger a 10.96, 98 mph win. Brian English and his 69 Camaro was marching through his side of the ladder, gunning down Bob Beucler and his 64 Polara for a QF win and gaining a bye to the final. Vinny Laurita had taken a loss against Olcott in the quarters. The title run was over early when English and his Norwalk Ct based Camaro reacted before the green and tossed out a shut off 10.79, giving Romeo the big cup as he rapped out a close to the dial 10.48 time at a speed of 109.09.
Local regular Mark Bogusat and his Malibu won the Dover New class when he proved one round better than Tom Blake and his Mustang. Bogusat ended the day for Bryan Felice in the QF while Blake was taking out the Malibu of Jerry Dalessio. Wes Cooper took the measure of Bob Dukin to shave the bracket to the last three standing. After Bogusat ran a single for the automatic advance, Blake and Cooper put their Mustangs against each other where the Florida machine flashed the win light with a 12.19 at 99.46 to the loser’s 13.37 and 104.38. Blake made the trophy dash interesting when he picked up a couple thousandths on the tree, but fell off the mark to settle for runner-up with a time of 13.00 and 108.63. An off the pace 11.59 at 107.56 was sufficient for Bogusat to haul in the cup for this class.
Even though not all the entered cars showed for first round in the 4-speed division, the opener still contained 22 vehicles ready for battle. In today’s modern era where automatic transmissions are the rule, this many drivers hitting a manual shift gearbox is a rare treat to watch. At the wheel of his 68 Mustang, Fishkill NY’s Kevin Bleakley moved up from the semi final round with a victory over the Cuda of Vance Hanlon while Chris Kraft powered his 55 Chevrolet out of Carmel NY past the dodge Dart of Chris Taylor from Blairstown NJ. Kraft had gotten into the final when Taylor fouled out and as they say, live by the foul light, die by the foul light. Kraft Jumped out very early for the quick loss, turning in a second place time of only 12.56 against his dial of 8.62. Bleakley, who had handicapped at 11.62 bailed out at the top end to nab the win at 12.10 and just 87 mph.
The last three cars standing in Comp eliminator consisted of a front-engined dragster, a rear-engined digger and a 48 Austin, testament to the variety of the field in this category. Bristol CT’s Dick Coleman managed a bye run in the semis with his Austin, carding an on the dial 10.1 at 129.53. Wayne Rudy drove his RED entry past the FED machine of Charles Benson. The Gardner NY racer got the better RT in the heads-up race and ran an 8.43 at 135.53 mph to make it close, but Rudy’s 8.36 and 142.34 sent the Morristown NJ pilot into the deciding round. Rudy turned the tables on Benson for reaction time advantage in their last race and his 8.32, 157.71 against an 8.31 dial got him the win. Benson dropped to second best when his 10.14 and 126.44 versus a 10.12 handicap came up a little short.
Although not originally included in the plan, there was a Bike eliminator run for the motorcycle guys. Ron Blake from Oxford NJ faced off with Ron Powell out of Elmont NY for the trophy here. Powell, who had run against a dial of 9.30 earlier, was unable to keep the bike in the staging beams against Blake and fouled away his chance. Blake ran a 10.31 at 137.34 mph in the winning effort.
Generally speaking, the more you do something the better you should get at doing it well. This was the first Dover Drag Strip reunion race, and judging by the turnout and the pure fun involved, next year’s event will have to go some to be better. It will be exciting to contemplate just what round two will provide. Again, congratulations to all those who worked so hard to bring about this event. The crew at Island Dragway hopes you all enjoyed yourselves and we look forward to the next reunion race. This is a terrific way to remember the fun old days at Dover, and all the people that make drag racing the great sport it is, and was. Dover lives because you folks keep it alive. Thanks for making us a part of the history.