Celebration of milestone race begins Thursday with NASCAR Hauler Parade at 5 p.m., followed by races and free entertainment Friday, Saturday and Sunday including shows by the Harlem Globetrotters and Grand Funk Railroad

With the stars of NASCAR’s top series visiting for the 100th time, Dover International Speedway officials are planning a party for everyone – from the diehard fans to first-time visitors – while opening a new garage for the racers.

The four-day celebration begins Thursday, Oct. 3 with the NASCAR hauler parade of tractor trailers and continues with races and free entertainment Friday, Saturday and Sunday, culminating in the Monster Energy Cup Series contest – the 100th cup race in the track’s 50-year history.

“Whether you have been coming for many years or it's the first time ever visiting our track, the lineup of entertainment sure will match up well to our fans,” said Mike Tatoian, president and chief executive officer of Dover International Speedway. “In addition to seeing world class NASCAR drivers compete, having the Harlem Globetrotters, Grand Funk Railroad, Winston Cup Mobile Museum, Budweiser Clydesdales, Monster Energy Smoke Show, Micro-Wrestling, fireworks, great food, autograph sessions and expanded Monster Mile Youth Nation area gives everyone of all ages and NASCAR experience something to cheer about.”

The speedway, nicknamed “The Monster Mile,” has been hosting two races in NASCAR’s top series for 50 years, with the historic 100th race this year Sunday, Oct. 6. Instead of the usual trophies designed to look like the concrete Miles the Monster, the race awards will be gold in celebration of the speedway’s golden anniversary.

“The 100th race represents more than just running 100 races,” Tatoian said. “It represents the vision and wherewithal of our original founders and the commitment that our employees, past and present, have made to our company. It reflects the passion of our fans and sponsors, punctuates the billions of dollars of economic impact over the years and of course the amazing NASCAR drivers that have created amazing memories at the Monster Mile.”

The speedway will be the 10th track in the nation to have hosted 100 or more NASCAR cup series races.

Playoffs in high gear

For NASCAR fans, all three of the weekend contests are significant – the season finale Friday for the K&N Pro Series East, the playoffs for the Xfinity series Saturday and the playoffs for the cup series Sunday.

After the Sept. 29 Monster Energy cup race at Charlotte, North Carolina, the playoff field was trimmed from 16 to 12, as Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones failed to advance.

Drivers qualifying for the round of 12 in Dover are Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Clint Bowyer. The full field of Monster Energy drivers will be competing in the Dover race, but only those 12 drivers have the chance to win the 2019 series championship.

Tatoian said while the playoffs are the focus on the track this weekend, the speedway staff always tries to present a great experience for fans.

“Whether we are hosting an early May race or a playoff race in the fall, we treat each race the same,” Tatoian said. “We always challenge ourselves on how best to entertain our fans with the activities we can control. We don’t control what happens on the track but we do control what happens off of the track. Playoffs are critical for the sport but we don’t assume that alone will attract our fans. We have to work hard to create excitement off the track. NASCAR creates the excitement on the track.”

NASCAR fan Tim Schucker of Dover said he’s glad he lives so close to what he calls “one of the best tracks.”

“I’ve been to races at other tracks, but Dover, to me, has the best fan experience,” said Schucker. “You can see all the action pretty much from wherever your seat is.”

The relatively narrow track produces close racing and unpredictable moments.

“You never know what’s going to happen here at the Monster Mile,” said Motor Racing Network radio announcer Steve Post at the press conference announcing the Sunday race sponsor, Drydene Performance Products.

Expanded garage opens

In September, speedway officials gave a sneak peek of the expanded garage for the Monster Energy Cup NASCAR teams that will be open for the first time for this weekend.

Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro for JTG Daugherty Racing, visited to check out the new headquarters for cup teams – a $5.5 million upgrade.

“It looks awesome,” said Preece, who is competing for 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors. “It’s going to help all of us during our practice sessions. Pulling in and out of the garage will be easier, and it will give the teams a better work environment for sure.”

Tatoian said the facility is “a tremendous new asset for our track.”

“We have literally maximized the space that the area will allow,” he said. “The new garage creates a much safer area and a larger area for everyone to move around both inside the actual garage and the area adjacent to it. It certainly continues to show our commitment to continually make improvements both for the teams and our fans.”

The building is 23,100 square feet, up from 18,400, about a 20 percent increase. It includes 44 garage bays, each 15 by 30 feet.

Work on the project began in May after the spring NASCAR race weekend at the track and was finished in September.

Free entertainment

No race ticket is required to see these free shows at Dover International Speedway during NASCAR weekend. Parking at the speedway is free Friday and Saturday, but is $10 Sunday.

• The Harlem Globetrotters, the legendary basketball team that wows fans of all ages with its ball-handling skills, trick shots and comedy routines, will give three performances Sunday, Oct. 6 at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the FanZone.

• Grand Funk Railroad will perform a concert on the Xfinity Stage at Victory Plaza Sunday, Oct. 6 at noon. Like Dover International Speedway, the group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Best known for number-one singles “We’re an American Band” and their rockin’ remake of “The Loco-Motion,” the group’s hits also include “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Bad Time.”

• Micro Wrestling Federation bouts Saturday, Oct. 5 at 11 a.m., 12:30 and 2 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.

• Chainsaw sculptors the Bear Hollow Wood Carvers demonstrating their art Friday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 6, with auctions of some of their works Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 1:15 p.m., in Victory Plaza.

• Appearances by the Budweiser Clydesdales throughout the weekend including photo opportunities following parades Saturday, Oct. 5 at noon, and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 10:30 a.m., in front of the Monster monument at Victory Plaza.

•Fireworks Saturday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.

NASCAR hauler parade Thursday

The party celebrating the 100th cup series race at Dover International Speedway starts with the NASCAR Hauler Parade through the city Thursday, Oct. 3 at 5 p.m.

A line of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tractor trailers that carry the race cars will travel around Legislative Hall to Legislative Avenue, turn left on Loockerman Street past the library and city hall, then turn right on State Street past Wesley College and Silver Lake, then cross U.S. Route 13 to Leipsic Road near Pizza Hut on the way to the speedway by about 5:45 p.m.

The parade is presented by Delaware’s Quaint Villages.

From 4-6 p.m., tourism ambassadors from Delaware’s Quaint Villages will be at the information booth in front of City Hall, 15 Loockerman Plaza, with resources and giveaways while answering questions and providing suggestions of places to eat and visit during race weekend.

“We are very excited to be a part of the annual NASCAR Hauler Parade,” said Pete Bradley, president of Kent County Tourism Corporation. “It’s fantastic to see fans and visitors line the streets of historic Dover to experience this exciting parade. We look forward to welcoming all visitors and fans and we are very appreciative of the economic impact these fans bring to our area twice a year.”

The first NASCAR Hauler Parade in Dover was held in 2013, which attracted about 10,000 people and featured dozens of 80-foot tractor trailers traveling through the city. Parades were scheduled in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but were canceled due to rain, before returning in 2017 and 2018.

“Colorful haulers have been a symbol of NASCAR for decades, and we’re pleased to be able to share that tradition with the Dover community,” said Mike Tatoian, president and chief executive officer of Dover International Speedway. “It’s always great to see so many fans and families along the parade route cheering as the haulers roll past.”