Ending a 50-year tradition, NASCAR schedule in Dover cut in half due to declining attendance

The Dover International Speedway in Delaware. (Chuck Snyder for WHYY)

The Dover International Speedway in Delaware. (Chuck Snyder for WHYY)

NASCAR is the only national professional sport to hold annual events in Delaware. Now, the track is ending a more than 50-year tradition of hosting a pair of cup series races at Dover International Speedway.

Next year, one of Dover’s races will be moved to Nashville Superspeedway, which is also owned by Dover Motorsports.

“When we built Nashville Superspeedway in 2001 our goal was to one day secure a NASCAR Cup Series race for the venue,” said Dover Motorsports CEO Denis McGlynn. “Nashville, central Tennessee and the surrounding market area is filled with passionate race fans.”

McGlynn said the Nashville TV market has some of the highest ratings for NASCAR races in the country.

Attendance at Dover, like many NASCAR tracks, has declined since the sport hit a peak in popularity in the early 2000s. In 2001, the grandstands were expanded to seat 135,000 spectators. But since then, the track has removed thousands of seats due to declining attendance, leaving the current capacity at about 54,000.

The Nashville track currently seats 25,000 people. McGlynn said they’ll add temporary seats to double that in time for next year’s race.

Dover fans took to the track’s Facebook page to react to the decision. “I’m so disappointed. The racing at Dover is so good and it’s my home track,” said one fan. “Really sad to see Dover lose a race loved coming there. I’m probably going to think hard about coming back now,” said another.

It’s still unclear what will happen to the Dover race that was postponed from earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. NASCAR resumed its schedule on May 17 in Darlington, South Carolina, racing in front of empty grandstands.

Though nothing has officially been announced, McGlynn said the speedway is preparing for the spring race to be made up as a part of a double-header with the track’s August date as has been done at other tracks since racing restarted. “That’s not official, that’s what we’re planning for because we don’t want to be caught shorthanded.”

Since 2012, the speedway has generated extra revenue through hosting the wildly popular Firefly Music Festival on land it owns adjacent to the track. The festival which draws thousands of music fans to Dover every June was canceled this year.

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