Wednesday, July 19, 2023

1970 – Only 7,500 Watch Foyt Win Dover Stock 200

Dover, Del. (July 19, 1970) – A Larry Riddick substituting for Mario Andretti? A Jim Perry running for Johnny Rutherford? A George Rodelli instead of Art Pollard? And where was Al Unser?

That was the situation created by the United States Auto Club when it canceled the Indianapolis-type 250-mile race scheduled for Dover Downs International Speedway on Sunday and called for its minor-league stock car division to stage a 200-mile contest.

A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., won the race. It was almost preordained that Foyt would triumph considering few of the really great race drivers were in competition. Andretti, Pollard, Rutherford, and Al Unser – they were all at home.

Riddick won $700, Rodelli $600 and Perry was lucky to keep his car on the track. That was type of competition many thousands of race fans didn’t see – they stayed home, too.

A crowd estimated at 7,500, depending on whom you talked to, watched the race, held on a blistering one-mile oval track. They can hardly take the blame, but it will take a financial bath – especially since the $35,000 purse that it generously offered was barely covered by the paid attendance.

Foyt was a loser, too. He gave Miss Delaware a quick kiss, grabbed the trophy for fastest qualifier, and said it was “hot” driving to a public address announcer who was trying to get A.J. to say a few words about his victory. Then, in a wink of an eye, Foyt was gone, harnessing himself inside a helicopter bound for Philadelphia’s International Airport.

No more words for anybody – not even his car owner, Jack Bowsher, who got stuck with the job of picking up Foyt’s check for $6,875, the winner’s share of the richest purse offered at a stock car race this season.

Don White was the runner-up in his 1969 Dodge Daytona, finishing 14 seconds behind Foyt’s Ford Torino. “I couldn’t have caught Foyt today,” White said. “Sure, I got by him a couple of times, but it seemed inevitable that if he ever got the lead back, I wasn’t going to catch him.”

White didn’t come right out and say “Ban Foyt” but the former USAC stock car champion is annoyed that Foyt can come into the stock car division and dominate the way he does.

“I’m not interested in Indianapolis. My interest is in driving stock cars, and I work hard to succeed at it. Why should a Foyt be allowed to come in? When he does, we’re almost assured at finishing second or third. He’s got the financial backing that most of us don’t or can’t afford to have.”

It is true that White lost, but he gave it a real go, leading for laps 170 through 180 until Foyt caught him in traffic and passed the Keokuk, Iowa, native.

Said Roger McCluskey, the USAC stock car point leader, who finished third in a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, “We tried to set up the car in a different way today. If it worked, we’d be winners. If it didn’t – well, we finished third.”

Bobby Unser, the 1968 Indianapolis 500 champion, qualified a 1970 Mustang owned by John Rollins of Wilmington and Melvin Joseph of Georgetown, placing it third with an average speed of 130 miles per hour. But engine problems forced Unser out after 101 laps, placing him 19th.

Results –

1. A.J. Foyt
2. Don White
3. Roger McCluskey
4. Butch Hartman
5. Norm Nelson
6. Len Blanchard
7. Bay Darnell
8. Terry Nichols
9. Paul Feldner
10.Woody Walcher
11.Gene Marmor
12.Joe Phipps
13.Larry Riddick
14.Dick Trickle
15.G.B. Gwyn
16.Al Straub
17.George Rodelli
18.Tom Jones
19.Bobby Unser
20.Ed Hoffman
21.Whitey Gerkin
22.Rick Oertel
23.A.J. Cox
24.Bill Jackson
25.Dave Whitcomb
26.Jim Perry
27.Billy Ries
28.Bob Harkey
29.Sal Tovella
30.Bob Wawak
31.Larry Berwanger

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