- Dale Jr. Retirement is Bittersweet But He’s Shown Us Family is First
- Bristol Motor Speedway Reapplies Traction Compound to Improve Grip
- Rain Delays Bristol Race Until Monday
- FBI Documents Show Patricia Driscoll Used Charity $$$ in Legal Fight Against Kurt Busch
- ATW: An in-depth look at NASCAR’s minor leagues
Dover is Monster Fun for NASCAR Fans
- Updated: September 27, 2016
By Jerry Jordan, Editor
DOVER, Del. – Situated less than 10-minutes from Dover Air Force Base, 45-minutes from the Delaware Air National Guard base and two hours from the nation’s capitol and The Pentagon, Dover International Speedway is the setting for the third race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship – add in the fact it’s a cutoff race, which makes it a must-win for several drivers in the playoffs, and Dover is guaranteed to excite and thrill racing fans across the board.
“What you saw here in the spring, everyone is saying that is some of the most exciting racing we have ever had here, at Dover, certainly in a long time if not ever,” said Michael Tatoian, track president. “Not saying that other tracks don’t have exciting races because they do but I think the benefit of the smaller tracks is that fans can see 100 percent of the action, 100 percent of the time because anything can happen at any time with the high-banks and, as you know, there is not a flat surface anywhere on the track.”
Tatoian said Dover is lucky that when it was built 48 years ago, it was constructed in such a manner to provide good racing. So, what happens with NASCAR’s top drivers on the track is out of their hands and fans have traditionally been entertained with good racing action. What the track and it marketing department are tasked with is making sure the fans have fun when the cars aren’t on the track and that’s fairly easy to do at Dover, Tatoian said.
“Our responsibility as track promoters is to entertain the fans off the track, so whatever happens on the track we are fortunate to have a track built in such a way to provide excitement,” he said. “You know, the drivers drive and we promote and we can’t control what the drivers do on the track much like other sports can’t control what happens on the field. Our job as track promoters is to entertain the fans, as much, or more off the track as they get entertained while they are watching the race.”
As Tatoian pointed out Dover isn’t a superspeedway, so getting around the perimeter of the track is easy for fans. And that makes it easy for Tatoian’s crew to have fan activities placed closer together. Aside from the fact that Dover has a four-diamond hotel and full-service casino with state-of-the-art gaming, it also has NASCAR-related activities in its fan zone area, camping, concerts and other fun things to do when the cars aren’t on the track.
“Our fan zone is physically close to the Fanatic’s merchandise and souvenir area, which is physically close to the Miles the Monster icon, which is physically close to the bathrooms and food and beverages, so I think it is a benefit that our track is not as expansive as other and is a benefit for those that want to be in the middle of the action and it seems like you are always in the middle of the action when you come to Dover.
“It’s organized chaos. The good news is that this is our 48th year (of racing) so all of those pieces of a the puzzle from a staff perspective is like assembling a football team and we have folks that are responsible for a specific position and my role as the head coach is to put all that together.”
Taotian said one of the great things for fans coming to Dover International Speedway, especially those that are staying on-site, is that his staff tries to work with the fans to find out what experience they want to be a part of. When that comes to camping in the lots surrounding the track it could be something as simple as placement. First time fans might not want to be in an area where fans that have been coming to the track and camping for a decade would want to be and families bringing children to the races might be better off in a more family-friendly camping area at the track. All of those areas are designated by zones and the track staff has an idea of what works best where.
“We have something going at the track from the morning all the way into the evening,” Tatoian said. “We’ve got capers right now pulled up and getting ready to load-in. For lack of a better term with our camping, we are really trying to create neighborhoods and over the past few years we really have tried to couple the type of experience that our fans would want and point them to the right campground where they would have the best experience.”
The NASCAR K&N Series will race on Friday, followed by the Xfinity Series event on Saturday and the grand finale with the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. But there will also be a pre-race concert and a movie will be shown in the Victory Plaza near Miles the Monster statue Saturday evening.
“We’ve got a lot of meet and greets scheduled with drivers and great food at Frankie’s Outdoor Café with craft beer and Budweiser products,” he said. “There’s just a lot of stuff going on off the track.”
Dover’s proximity to one of the country’s premiere military bases, as well as, the Delaware Air National Guard base in New Castle, Del. is why Dover officials are using the upcoming NASCAR weekend to highlight the efforts of America’s military. The “Citizen Soldier 400” will be held Sunday and feature tribute to the area’s military men and women.
“We typically have a pretty heavy presence of military folks at our races,” Tatoian said. “This particular one (The Citizen Soldier 400) the movie Citizen Soldier is about the Army National Guard unit in Oklahoma that was deployed in 2011 and fought over in Afghanistan and the movie is very immersive film that was shot on helmet cams worn by the soldiers. So, they pieced it together to tell a story and it is very intense. This is really just another opportunity for our track to continue to honor the men and women who serve our country. We will have a heavy dose of military activities with F-16 flyovers and the USO Military Show Troup, which is a great choir that comes over from Arlington, Va.
“Dover hosted perhaps the most patriotic NASCAR event in history after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, 15 years ago, and we want that same spirit to be back in the grandstands and around the track this weekend.”
Tatoian said from a competitive aspect Dover speaks for itself and with it being a cutoff race there is a lot on the line for four drivers that will not advance to the next round in The Chase. For rookie of the year candidate, Chris Buescher, that means he needs a win to move on. And while a win isn’t likely, Buescher said he wasn’t ashamed of his team’s performance this season.
“To be a part of this in our rookie season is pretty impressive,” Buescher said. “I am not one to brag on our accomplishments but to be a part of The Chase and to be one of those 16 that is a big deal. We didn’t want to be one those out in the first round and we still don’t, so we are going to see what we can do at Dover. It’s pretty obvious that we need to win so that’s some pressure we have there and that is going to be very difficult to do.”
Tatoian said he believes his staff is the best in the business at ensuring fans have a great experience at the track and want to return. And for first-timers, Tatoian thinks there is so much going on they will surely have a great time and enjoy some of the best racing on the NASCAR circuit. For information on tickets, go to www.nascar.com/tickets or www.doverspeedway.com or call the track at 1-800-441-RACE (7223). And during The Chase, you can get free tickets for children to all Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series events.