Hitting the walls at Dover International Speedway: A lifelong tradition for local painter

From left, Travis Bowers, Tim Bischof and Roger Yates with Bowers Signs paint the outside wall at Dover International Speedway. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — Dover sign painter Travis Bowers and his merry crew of two assistants will have had a hand in creating nearly everything visual that NASCAR race fans will see at Dover International Speedway this weekend.

Well, everything except for the racing. That, of course, will be up to the professional race car drivers who will be competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series from Friday until Sunday.

Before the high-octane excitement of NASCAR race weekend arrives at Dover’s high-banked, one-mile race track, Mr. Bowers is always the first to hit the walls.

Mr. Bowers, along with his assistants Tim Bischof and Roger Yates, hand paints the brightly-hued corporate sponsor logos that adorn the outside and inside walls of the speedway.

They also paint the billboards that line the track at the bottom of the grandstand seating in turns one and two — all strategically placed to catch not only the race fans at the race track, but also those watching on TV from home.

“This is always controlled chaos,” Mr. Bowers said. “We got the track ready in three weeks this spring, but there was another month that went into it previously for planning. Thankfully, the weather worked out to where we could get it done.

“Things are constantly changing. There’s more focus on (placing signs for) TV now because there’s more viewership there than there are people in the stands, unfortunately. So, we have to adapt to that and figure out where the TV cameras will place most of their focus.”

The chaos for the crew from Bowers Signs goes a lot deeper than just painting logos on the walls of the track.

From left, Tim Bischof ,Travis Bowers, and Roger Yates with Bowers Signs walk with paint cans toward the outside at Turn 2 wall at Dover International Speedway. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“We put vinyl lettering on all of the track’s fire and rescue vehicles that they use during the race and the track service ones that clean the track (throughout race weekend),” Mr. Bowers said. “We also do the backdrops that are used for the Victory Lane celebrations and everything else that’s here in the garage that might need attention paid to it.”

Mr. Bowers always has a game plan. After all, he’s had a paint brush in his hand ever since he was five-years-old helping his dad, Jerry, with the painting at Dover’s speedway.

He has vivid memories of those days.

“When I was five my dad was painting and I took my Big Wheel out and went down the banking in turn one once and crashed and burned at the bottom of the hill,” he said, with a laugh. “That was the last time I did that.”

A little help from his friends

Mr. Bischof has been assisting Mr. Bowers for the last 12 years. NASCAR weekends at Dover are two weekends a year that he always makes sure to circle on his calendar.

He even has a large vinyl sticker depicting the racing action at the “Monster Mile” adorned to the tailgate of his work truck.

“We take a lot of pride in our work at Dover International Speedway,” said Mr. Bischof. “Everything I do I try to do it to make Travis (Bowers) happy and make Dover International Speedway happy.

“Then, when I see our work on TV and it’s really cool — it’s like, ‘I did that!’”

Mr. Yates said there’s a simple explanation as to why he offers to help with the sign painting at the track.

“I like it, that’s why I’m out here,” he said. “We’re always the first ones to hit the wall. It can be a difficult job. It can make you pretty sore when you’re painting the walls up there in the corners.”

The working conditions can be demanding, especially when it comes to painting in the middle of the turns of the “Monster Mile,” which are steeply banked at a 24-degree angle.

Mr. Bowers said he can go through a pair of sneakers every race weekend as the shoes simply cannot withstand the angles and the pressure that is put on them.

Plus, it is always a race within a race to try to get the track all spiffy and ready for race weekend – especially with the cold spring that Delaware has endured this year.

‘Paging Mr. Bowers …’

The spring and fall NASCAR race weekends at Dover are always hectic ones where Mr. Bowers is sure to have his cell phone in hand.

If there is an accident in Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and a truck smacks into one of the sponsor’s logos on the walls, it is up to Mr. Bowers and crew to have it repainted and fixed in time for Saturday’s Xfinity race. The same goes for the Xfinity Series event prior to Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race.

Everything has to look pristine for each day of racing.

“Throughout the weekend I’m on call if anything is needed,” Mr. Bowers said. “I’ve been out here working all night long until 7 o’clock in the morning before.

“That was the time (Felton’s) CJ Faison blew a tire in the K&N Series and took out all of the lettering in turns one and two. Hey, it happens. You’ve just got to be ready for it.”

There can also be the unexpected issues, such as when a sponsor arrives at Dover and forgets to bring decals for its products. Or when a race team needs to affix a last-minute sponsor to its race car.

That’s when Bowers Signs is called to jump into action.

Comfortable relationship with speedway

Mr. Bowers’ lifelong relationship with Dover’s race track has helped make his transition from “kid on a Big Wheel” to business owner relatively seamless.

He credits his relationship with Rob Lofland, assistant vice president of business development at Dover International Speedway, as a big reason for his success.

“My cooperation with the people at Dover International Speedway is the best,” Mr. Bowers said. “I work with Rob Lofland primarily and everybody involved pretty much knows what’s up. We all know what to expect.”

Bowers Signs was also heavily involved in the Firefly Music Festival during its first year in 2012, but that weekend doesn’t keep Mr. Bowers quite as busy these days.

“The Firefly organizers kept everything (signage) from the first year and they store it at the track and bring it back out every year,” he said. “The first order we had from Firefly our (vinyl) printer ran for 36 hours straight.

“I just enjoy the fun and the excitement of it all. But for me, the chaos that comes with NASCAR weekends are still way more exciting than Firefly.”

This is one weekend where putting graphics on Dover Police Department patrol cars, making signs for people running for political office, or just working on a project for local businesses, is going to have to wait.

“NASCAR is coming to town and there is just nothing like it,” Mr. Bowers said. “But when it’s done you can be sure I’ll be ready for a vacation.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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