DOVER, Del. -- The Monster Mile, as Dover International Speedway has always been known, has taken on an added dimension -- concrete. "White Lightning," they're calling it.
Yesterday, lightning struck here during the Busch Grand National race when all but one car developed blistered tires, prompting Goodyear to decide to truck in a different tire for today's Miller Genuine Draft 500.
The arrival of the 1,100 new tires on race day has forced NASCAR to schedule a practice session on the morning of a Winston Cup race for the first time in history.
When pole-sitter Jeff Gordon leads the field to the green flag for today's race, it will be the first Winston Cup stock car race run on a concrete super speedway.
"We tested here twice this spring after the track was repaved with concrete, and we decided to go with a thicker tread to help combat the wear problem and to permit the cars to complete a pit stop without wearing out," said Leo Mehl, Goodyear's general manager of racing worldwide.
"But after the 80-plus Busch Grand National and Winston Cup teams completed practice and the Busch Grand National race was over, it became apparent the racetrack conditions had totally changed since testing."
Because of that, Goodyear, which had brought 3,800 tires here to combat wear, decided late yesterday afternoon to change the tires for today's race and is trucking in tires from its warehouses in North Carolina and Ohio. Each team is expected to have seven sets of tires for the race.
The new tires, which Mehl said will provide a more heat resistant combination for the race, were expected to arrive by 3 a.m. And the Winston Cup teams were to be allowed a half-hour of practice from 8 to 8:30 this morning to work on their race setups.
"I feel sorry for all these guys who have to run under these conditions [today]," said Dale Jarrett, who competed in yesterday's Busch race and will start 18th today. "This place is tough enough physically, which makes it nerve-racking to begin with, let alone having to worry about a tire situation, which is scary as anything you can imagine."
Jarrett said that even with the tire change Goodyear is planning, "You're going to have to do a lot of tiptoeing or you're going to wind up in the wall, somewhere, big time."
NASCAR already was taking steps to improve track conditions yesterday by setting up cones in the turns of the track to force the cars to run above the preferred racing line and begin working in a second racing groove.
Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, who needed second-day qualifying yesterday to earn a 23rd place starting position for today's race, was one of many voicing concern.
"I don't think running above the cones hurt, but I don't think it helped," said Earnhardt, who leads the Winston points standings. "All the dirt and trash gets thrown up there off the tires when you run low, and you don't want to run up there.
It's slick. . . . They're defeating their purpose of racing when they create a race track you can't run but one lane on."
Most drivers believe that as more rubber is laid on the track through practice sessions and yesterday's race, the better the track will get.
And the winner is
For the third straight time on Dover's one-mile oval, a driver who had never won found his way to victory lane in the GM Goodwrench/Delco Battery 200. This time it was Mike McLaughlin, in his French's Mustard Chevrolet. He beat Mike Wallace to the finish by nearly a full lap.
McLaughlin averaged 102.887 mph to complete the 200-mile race in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 38 seconds and had the rare good fortune of not having tire troubles. He earned $24,710 for the victory.
Another hot topic in the Winston Cup garages yesterday was the $60,000 penalty assessed Gordon's crew chief Ray Evernham. Competitors had mixed feelings about the fine that was levied "for using a suspension that did not meet NASCAR standards."
Gordon's car was found to have an illegal, light-weight hub (the part on which the tire goes on the car) that could break and send a car and driver slamming into a wall.