Marker unveiling marks Georgetown Speedway’s place in history

GEORGETOWN – Snowflakes, raindrops and race teams and fans from across the Mid-Atlantic and even New England congregated Saturday on the first weekend of the 2018 motorsports season at Georgetown Speedway, which now has a marked place in history.

State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn speaks at the marker dedication as State Rep. Rich Collins holds a replica of the historic marker.

Two ceremonies – one at the flagger’s stand and another at the permanent site along Speedway Road – punctuated the unveiling of a historical marker recognizing Georgetown Speedway, a half-mile dirt track built in 1949 by businessman/auto racing pioneer Melvin L. Joseph.

Legislatively, the Delaware Public Archives marker was sponsored by State Senator Brian Pettyjohn and State Representatives Ruth Briggs King and Rich Collins.

Their respective representative districts are in the close proximity to the track on Speedway Road just off U.S. 113 south of Georgetown.

“Georgetown Speedway is back on the map again. It is great to hear the roar of engines – from almost inside Georgetown!” said Sen. Pettyjohn. “Hopefully, this track will be here for a long, long time to come.”

“It’s amazing,” said Kenny Adams, grandson of late Mr. Joseph. “It’s just an honor for us – for the family.”

Mr. Adams was quick to recognize the management and promotional efforts of Brett Deyo of BD Motorsports Media LLC, in refueling the resurgence of the motorsports facility, starting in the spring of 2016.

“You can’t mention Melvin without mentioning Brett Deyo today. Brett has just done an incredible job. There have been a lot of people between Melvin building it and now that weren’t so successful with it, and Brett has just done a wonderful job. He’s got a gift,” said Mr. Adams. “If you look at other race tracks, the purse they pay is nowhere what Brett does. And the admission prices are reasonable.”

The text on the historic marker reads:

“Built in 1949 by businessman and auto racing pioneer Melvin L. Joseph, many racing legends got their start at Georgetown’s half-mile dirt oval.

The Delaware Stock Car Racing Association sanctioned the first race at the speedway on March 18, 1950. The speedway was NASCAR sanctioned from 1953-1957 and from 1959-1963. 

Over the years, the Georgetown Speedway has become well- known across the county for its role in the development of stock car racing.”

Motorsports memorabilia collector Chad Culver, author of the book, Delaware Auto Racing, had a key role in this historical project.

“Super proud to be a part of preserving the history of this speedway and this sport! Thanks to all who helped with this project!” Mr. Culver, who now resides in North Carolina, stated in a Facebook post.

Eighteen race cars competed in the speedway’s first event on March 18, 1050. The feature was won by Johnny Martin.

Mr. Joseph’s deep passion for motorsports ranged from local competition to big-league NASCAR.

Considered a pioneer in NASCAR’s development and growth, he designed and constructed Dover International Speedway (initially Dover Downs International Speedway).

His “Gentleman, start your engines” command started at every NASCAR cup race at Dover starting in 1969.

Front, Kenny Adams and Rep. Ruth Briggs King; back, Sen. Brian Pettyjohn and Sen. Ernie Lopez at the permanent marker site.

In tribute to the track builder, the Melvin Joseph 49-lap Memorial Race was scheduled Saturday.

“We’re just so proud that so many years later people still understand and appreciate what Melvin did,” Mr. Adams said. “If it wasn’t for Melvin, a lot of these activities we enjoy wouldn’t be taking place.”

Another marker in the works

Rep. Briggs King said another historic marker is in the works, this one saluting the Stockley Tavern, built in 1948 and now owned by Mr. Adams. The restaurant/bar/package store is located on U.S. 113 south of Georgetown Speedway between Georgetown and Millsboro.

“They say they may be putting one in front of the tavern,” said Mr. Adams. “The two facilities go hand in hand. You do what you do here and then you talk about it there. We call it ‘bench racing’ where I come from.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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