NASCAR Cup Series

2 of top NASCAR drivers of all time are coming to Dover — and one of them will be racing

2 of top NASCAR drivers of all time are coming to Dover — and one of them will be racing

It’s no wonder that Dover Motor Speedway president and general manager Mike Tatoian is excited about the upcoming NASCAR race weekend.

The track will host two of the biggest legends in NASCAR history in Richard Petty and Jimmie Johnson. And Johnson, who’s by far the winningest driver in Dover history, will be driving Sunday in the Wurth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race.

Johnson stopped racing full time in 2020 and was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Last year, Johnson became a partial owner of Legacy Motor Club, the team formerly known as Petty GMS Motorsports. He raced in four events last season and is racing in nine events this season. Dover is his second race since the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.

Johnson will be driving the No. 84 Toyota at Dover, reversing the number No. 48 that he drove during his full-time NASCAR career.

“It’s great to have him back at Dover, where he’s won more than any other driver,” Tatoian said. “He competes here really, really well. Even though now he’s a part-time driver, when he gets behind the wheel of a car at Dover, he’s always going to be a threat to win.”

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It’s easy to see why.

Johnson has won at Dover 11 times. Nobody else has more than seven. Johnson ranks fifth in NASCAR history with 83 wins, while Petty is first with 200. Johnson’s last Cup Series win came at Dover, on June 4, 2017.

Johnson, Petty and Dale Earnhardt are tied with the most NASCAR Cup Series championships with seven.

Petty won Dover’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race, the Mason-Dixon 300, in 1969. He won by an incredible six laps, and later referred to that first Dover race as “NASCAR’s invasion of the North.”

Petty will be honored at Dover as part of the Petty Family’s 75th anniversary in NASCAR. Dover will unveil a 6-foot, 1,000-pound fiberglass and concrete “King’s Hat” monument in honor of Richard Petty near the Monster Monument. The exhibit features a collection of photos of Petty, including his 199th career victory. That came in May, 1984 at Dover.

“This is really for the fans to enjoy something unique to our family, our history, and our contributions to the tracks and NASCAR,” Petty said in a statement. “It took a lot of people, time, and effort to make this happen, and our family is honored by that.”

What’s the race schedule?

  • Friday, April 26: General Tire 150 ARCA Menards Series race (5 p.m., FS2)

  • Saturday, April 27: BetRivers 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash race (1:30 p.m., FS1, PRN, SiriusXM)

  • Sunday, April 28: Würth 400 NASCAR Cup Series race (2 p.m., FS1, PRN, SiriusXM)

What’s the weather forecast for the Wurth 400?

Now, if only Tatoian can do something about the weather after the Cup races the previous two years were rained out and rescheduled for the next day.

That’s why Tatoian has yet to see Dover’s full race weekend potential in five years. That was when the track completed a gradual reduction of seating capacity from about 135,000 to about 54,000.

That last reduction was completed just before the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. In 2021, Dover’s first year with one race instead of two, attendance was limited to 20,000 because of state COVID restrictions. Then the rain postponed the last two races.

“Ticket sales are more robust than they’ve been in many years,” Tatoian said. “So despite the challenges that have had with weather or COVID related, we’re looking forward to a great weekend.”

As for that weather forecast, the National Weather Service is predicting partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 75 degrees in Dover next Sunday.

Apr 29, 2023; Dover, Delaware, USA; NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Truex (second from left) celebrates in victory lane with his girlfriend Leah Schwandt (right) and brother NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr (second from right) and his father Martin Truex Sr (left) after winning the A-GAME 200 at Dover Motor Speedway.

Who are the top drivers to watch?

Johnson, no doubt, has to be among the favorites because of his past success, as does Martin Truex Jr., who won at Dover last year. Truex Jr., who’s from New Jersey, has won four times overall.

But really, Joey Logano says anyone can win because of Dover’s famous high-banked oval.

“Dover is a unique track for a lot of different reasons,” Logano said. “The banking that’s there, the speed’s that there. It’s one of a kind. It’s a lot of fun. It’s probably the fastest feeling lap that you have all year long. It’s just a track that you feel like you’re carrying so much speed, which you are. And it’s so tight around there. So 400 laps feels like a marathon, for sure.”

After a slow start to the season, Logano, a two-time Cup Series champion in 2018 and 2022, had put together four straight finishes in the top 11 before finishing 19th Sunday at Talladega.

Logano is currently 15th in the points standings.

Here are the top 10 drivers

  • Kyle Larson

  • Martin Truex Jr.

  • Denny Hamlin

  • Chase Elliott

  • William Byron

  • Ty Gibbs

  • Ryan Blaney

  • Tyler Reddick

  • Bubba Wallace

  • Christopher Bell

  • What else is going on at the track this weekend?

    In addition to seeing Johnson in action Sunday, fans can see him at the Monster Monument at 11:45 a.m. for a Q&A session. Johnson will be joined there by Truex Jr.

    Petty, his longtime crew chief Dale Inman, and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Donnie Allison are scheduled to make an appearance at the Monster Monument at noon on Sunday. Petty and Inman will visit the “King’s Hat” for a photo opportunity at 12:30 p.m.

    Other chances to meet drivers

    • ARCA Menards Series autograph session at 2:15 p.m. on Friday.

    • Xfinity Series drivers autograph session at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday.

    • In addition to Johnson and Petty, fans can meet Kyle Busch at 11 a.m. and William Byron at 11:30 a.m.

    In addition, there are several events for adults and children alike at The Fan Zone near the Monster Monument beginning at noon Friday, and beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There will be live music, games, dog shows, a cornhole contest, pro and college team mascots, fireworks, monster trucks, the world’s largest rubber duck, a petting zoo and micro wrestling.

    All of the events outside the track are free, and fans don’t need a ticket to the race in order to attend.

    “We believe you don’t have to necessarily have to be a diehard motor sports fan to come out and enjoy a NASCAR race weekend,” Tatoian said. “If you’re a motor sports fan, it makes for a great day or a weekend. And if you’re not yet a motor sports fan, then we believe that just getting you to the property and being around the excitement … gives you the feeling of what a race weekend is all about.”

    Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on X @Mfranknfl.

    This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson is racing at Dover; Richard Petty honored

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