The track was originally conceived for harness racing and thoroughbreds, but entrepreneur John W. Rollins (see BR32) got involved during construction, completing the facility and insisting that it be modified to include automobile racing. Richard Petty won the opening race in 1969. By 1982, the track had lost millions of dollars and seemed a hopeless boon-doggle. The explosive growth of NASCAR racing saved the day, however, and Dover Downs underwent sixteen consecutive years of expansion, growing from 22,000 seats in 1985 to 140,000 in 2001, by which time each NASCAR race weekend pumped millions of dollars directly into the Delaware economy, with 92 percent of the fans from out-of-state. An adjacent casino attracts 2.5 million customers annually (three times the population of Delaware!); to serve them, a ten-story hotel was added. Removal of all “architectural barriers to access” and the addition of 300 wheelchair-accessible seats came as a result of a 1990s settlement agreement with the U.S. government, one of the first results of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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Dover Downs and Dover International Speedway
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