Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 46


on them . Those hippies were all stuck in the mud , and meanwhile , down at Dover , the weather was beautiful , and we had nitro fuel coupes booked in that weekend !” It turned out to be a weekend to remember for all involved .
Dover was a close-knit family of racers , but that didn ’ t mean they weren ’ t willing to do anything necessary to win . “ I can tell you stories of cheaters that you wouldn ’ t believe !” laughs Lawrence . One particular racer assumed he would get protested , so he cleverly duct-taped a stock cam under his motor . When the tech inspector asked to see his cam , he simply fumbled around under his car for a while and eventually produced the duct-taped cam . “ We caught him , though !” Lawrence testifies . Another guy hid barbells inside the car so he could later remove them to save weight .
A Roman Catholic church nearby held Mass from 1-2 p . m ., so the track would respectfully shut down and take a lunch break . Instead of confessing their indiscretions , the racers used this time to make their cars illegal . During Mass , the Stock racers would be out there removing the stock carburetors and installing stuff like Holley Double Pumpers ! Next , they ’ d be under their cars , removing their exhaust to save weight . Dover tech inspectors caught on pretty quickly and realized they must perform a follow-up inspection after church let out .
So what was it about this kooky little outlaw track that cemented its legacy in dragstrip folklore ? Simply put , it was the friendships that were forged here . “ People who would have never met otherwise met at Dover , and lifetime friendships were formed ,” says Lawrence .
He described the racing as seat-of-your-pants . “ There were no traction compounds , you got one water burnout , and the place had dopey old lights . That ’ s just the way it was . The two old guys that started this place had a vision for a dragstrip , only they didn ’ t know anything about drag racing . But honestly , in spite of everything , they ran it pretty well .”
Tons of other tracks sprang up shortly after Dover opened , and eventually , the lovable outlaw track shuttered its doors forever in 1976 . By the early 1990s , Lawrence had relocated to Rockingham , North Carolina , and opened a thriving custom paint and sign shop – the result of skills he learned decades earlier at Dover .
Admittedly , he had kind of forgotten about Dover Drag Strip , that is , until the aforementioned internet forum reignited memories and people couldn ’ t stop swapping stories and photos . Some came in from as far away as Australia . The only logical thing to do next was launch a Dover reunion event , and naturally , Lawrence was the obvious choice to get the whole thing off the ground .
New Jersey ’ s Island Dragway bore a striking resemblance to Dover , so in 2009 that ’ s where the inaugural Dover Drag Strip Nostalgia Drags was held . The event was a one-day affair that attracted 97 original drivers and cars from Dover . “ Everybody wanted to make it a two-day affair the following year so they could have more social time , so that ’ s what we did ,” remembers Lawrence .
After a personnel change at Island , Lawrence moved the event to New York ’ s Lebanon Valley Dragway , where it ’ s been held since 2011 . The event has grown into one of the most celebrated nostalgia events on the East Coast , with over 300 cars across seven eliminators in competition over three days , but that ’ s just the beginning .
In the event ’ s 14-year history , it ’ s grown to include many other attractions , including the
Sunday Rod and Custom Car Show , a live band , a dedicated nostalgia vendor area , and the Gasoline Alley Race Car Display . The event has bonafide thrill show appeal , featuring nostalgia Funny Cars , Extreme Altereds , front-engine dragsters , Supercharged Gassers , Nostalgic Pro Mods , and much more .
Within weeks of the most recent running , Lawrence had already confirmed the dates for the 15th running of this historic event , set for September 18-20 , 2023 . “ We ’ re gonna step up the nitro for the next event – we ’ ve booked the East Coast Fuelers .”
For all the eliminators , the cutoff is 1976 or earlier . “ We did that with the understanding that everything on the track that weekend could have ran at Dover . It ’ s a really fun race and we ’ ve always got new stuff in the works and try to improve the event each and every year ,” concludes Lawrence .
While the event has significantly evolved since its inception , it ’ s safe to say that the Dover Nostalgia Drags will continue to expand while always capturing the magic of this unforgettable dragstrip . DI
46 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 180