Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 - Page 44


Way Back When

Dover Nostalgia Drags celebrates the history of New York ’ s long-lost Dover Drag Strip By Van Abernethy

Dover Drag Strip represents an unforgettable time in history , and a select group of racers will always fondly remember this somewhat obscure dragstrip , even though it ’ s been closed for 47 years .

Located in Wingdale , New York , this small-town quarter-miler was in operation from 1961 through 1976 and functioned as an outlaw track for all but one year . “ In 1971 , NHRA sanctioned Dover for just one year ,” remembers Dino Lawrence , who served as track announcer from 1967-1972 .
Over the last several decades , Lawrence has become the foremost authority on all things
Dover , including the launch of an internet forum and eventually organizing a reunion event that ’ s coming up on 15 years in the running . He even penned a catchy song about the track called “ Dover Days .” To understand his affection for this track and the impact it had , it helps if you clear an entire afternoon and sit down with Lawrence , who dishes one wild tale after another .
In those early days – years before Lawrence even had a driver ’ s license – he would hitchhike to Dover . Inspired by the fancy lettering and graphics in hot rod magazines , he began doing custom pinstriping and lettering for many of the racers at Dover Drag Strip .
Lawrence describes Dover as an antique facility , even when it was relatively new . “ We got our first home-built Christmas tree in 1964 ,” he says . “ Prior to that , we still had a flagman . The PA system was Army surplus , and the timing system could only record an elapsed time . The mph was
a calculated average .”
The shutdown had 20-foot drop-offs on each side , and the ill-conceived guard walls consisted of telephone poles , two feet tall with a single cable running through them . “ That ’ s why the NHRA sanction only lasted one season !” laughs Lawrence . The track elected to forego the necessary upgrades to keep the sanction , and Dover slipped back into outlaw status the following year .
Recalling the Summer of Love in 1969 , Lawrence remembers the famous Woodstock music festival that happened roughly 50 miles from the track , although the whole thing came as a puzzling affair .
“ I was attending art school in New York City , and all week long , these hippies kept talking about peace and love , and I didn ’ t understand what they were talking about ... but I sure found out ,” Lawrence says . “ Traffic was bumper to bumper heading up to Woodstock , and it poured rain
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