A car in the hand makes Miles happy

DOVER — What’s a monster without his toy?

Does his eyes glisten with anger? Does his lower lip pout, or quiver in frustration like a child stuck in time-out?

When it comes to Kent County’s very own monster, that’s hard to say because the eyes of Dover International Speedway’s Miles glow red all the time and he regularly bares his teeth as he peers at his Fan Zone kingdom.

However, if his countenance has appeared more fearsome of late, it might have been because of his empty right hand. For six weeks, Miles the Monster has been waiting for a new race car to arrive from North Carolina.

“Toyota is very passionate that the car on display matches the car seen on the track,” said Gary Camp, senior director of communications for Dover International Speedway, Friday morning. The track has partnered with Toyota for three years.

Toyota ships the car to Denver, North Carolina, where it’s modified courtesy of the manufacturer before arriving in Dover. It’s been stored at the track for about a week, awaiting a combination of the track’s maintenance crew and crane operators to place it in Miles’ hand.

The life-size car is more like the 2015 Camry race car fans will see circling Dover’s concrete mile in 41 days when the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity teams hit the Monster Mile for practice.

“It has an accurate frame and shell,” Mr. Camp said.

Throw in an engine and other innards and Miles might be tempted to spin it around Dover’s high banks.

“It’s a marquee icon here at the track and we’re proud of it,” Mr. Camp said.

“We’re excited that it looks so accurate.”

The 46-foot tall monster, popping out of its 7-foot high, 60-foot circular base, draws visitors weekly, Mr. Camp said. Track personnel see people every week taking photographs.

“It’s become the quintessential Delaware landmark,” he said.

Mr. Camp said Friday’s car is the fourth update since the Monster Monument, constructed by ACI Composites in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was erected in 2008 as the centerpiece of the speedway’s 7.8-acre Fan Zone.

Once the track’s maintenance staff pushed the car out of its temporary home in the track garage, three ironworkers from Kent Construction used a crane to drop the 1,550-pound car into Miles’ hand. They estimated it took about 20 minutes to lift the car, snug it in and then secure it with four clips and four bolts.

“It took longer to set up the crane,” said Bob Pearce of Felton.

He, along with Dave Hill of Smyrna and foreman Ken Masciantonio of Dover, enjoyed Friday’s job, especially since the morning rain ended and the wind wasn’t bad by the time they arrived with the crane at Victory Plaza, off Leipsic Road.

“This is the fun stuff,” said Mr. Masciantonio.

The racier-looking 2015 Toyota is a bit longer than the model it replaced and sports a paint job picked by Dover.

“It can’t be wider,” the foreman said. “It’s already a tight fit.”

Mr. Masciantonio knows the monster well, whom he says is aging well. They put him together back in 2008 so he always looks over Miles while they are at eyeball level.

“Miles is doing well, better than us,” he said, laughing.

Miles is scheduled for a visit from Delmarva Cleaners before race weekend. He’ll be given the once over from behind his ears to the tips of his 9-foot round fingers to make sure no residue will distract from his glower or cut abs.

Meanwhile, the granite plaques circling the monument base are being updated. Engravers K&S Inc. of Frankford will make sure the most recent race winner’s name — fall victor Jeff Gordon — is immortalized.

The monument “is a real destination for race fans,” Mr. Camp said. “They congregate there, they meet up with friends. They enjoy finding the plaques with maybe their driver’s name.

“It’s the most photographed area on race weekend.”

While Miles may a stud muffin when it comes to the camera, he’s not the primary reason for folks at the track May 29-31. Speedway personnel are getting ready for a triple-header of action with the Camping World Truck race on Friday, the Xfinity series on Saturday and the Sprint Cup Sunday afternoon. (Visit doverspeedway.com or call [800] 441-RACE for tickets.)

Crews are cleaning up in Turns 2 and 3 where grandstand seats were removed after the September race. Research is ongoing about what might be added, Mr.Camp said. One suggestion has been a fan “party” deck.

“We’ve engaged an architect … and are mulling over what capital project will make the most sense, will have the most impact for fans,” Mr. Camp said.

Over the off-season the track completed the installation of a new catch fence, a $2.9 million project. The 21-foot fence replaces the previous 15-foot one and encircles the entire track.

Dover also is consulting with NASCAR about the track’s SAFER barriers — Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers that absorb and dissipates energy when a car hits it, usually reducing injury to the driver.

“We lean on the experts,” Mr. Camp said, “to do what is in the best interest of drivers and their safety.”

And for those who might ask, there are “no plans to add lights at this time.”

Race Weekend

May 28: Camping World Truck series practice
May 29: Lucas Oil Camping World Truck race
May 30: Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket Xfinity race
May 31: FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks Sprint Cup race
For tickets and information, visit doverspeedway.com or call (800) 441-RACE

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