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Official Review by Geoff Crawley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In 1969, Dover International Speedway opened as a dual-purpose (vehicle and horse racing) facility in Dover, Delaware. The first event, the Mason-Dixon 300, was won by "The King," Richard Petty, one of approximately eight zillion races won by him in his storied career. Nicknamed "The Monster Mile," Dover is brutal on cars. The 14-foot high turns are physically grueling, and the course has been called “Bristol on steroids.” If you are one of those people that wonders what is so difficult about driving in circles for 3 hours, I suggest you try this track at 170 MPH, then report your findings back to me at the "Miles the Monster" Statue, assuming you aren’t in the hospital.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
So, the score for this section is going to be completely dependent on you. The reason for this is that there are lots of different options for you. Here's the deal: from a traditional stadium venue experience, the food is a 2 out of 5. There's nothing special in there: just regular stuff, like burgers, dogs, nachos, soda, beer (4 kinds), etc. However, this is not your traditional stadium venue experience.
This is NASCAR.
Before you start thinking I'm a stereotypical NASCAR fan, trust me, I most assuredly am not. In fact, anyone who knows me personally would find that hysterically funny. But what I am is realistic. And NASCAR puts on a show better than any other sport and treats its fans better than any other sport, and that includes the food.
So, what you end up with is a...festival of food and drink and...stuff OUTSIDE of the Speedway for DAYS (yes, days) prior to the race. You name it, somebody is cooking and selling it out there and at a decent price. And in a lot of cases, somebody in their RV is cooking it and giving it away, and it tastes Dez Bryant good. (Wait for it.)
There are several full bars with hundreds of beers on tap, including several I have never heard of, which is an accomplishment.
OR you can sit in the VELOCITY Suite, which allows individual fans to buy suite tickets with open food and bar. The food is ridiculous and the bar is, well, heck, it's an open bar, come on.
OR you can bring your own food in a NASCAR approved cooler. As long as it can fit under your seat and it doesn't pose a safety hazard, they don't care what's in it. Try bringing a six-pack into an NFL game. Let me know how THAT works out for you.
So 2 points or 5 points. It's up to you. I say 5.
If you have never been to a NASCAR race, go get your bucket list and put it on there. I'll wait.
Okay. A couple of things that you really can't tell from TV. One: The cars are really big. Like, huge. Jeff Gordon is not driving an Impala that he picked up at some run-of-the-mill Chevy dealer. Two: The cars are really loud. More on that later. It's just, man, they are LOUD.
So again, NASCAR really puts on a terrific show. There are pre-race concerts and contests. They love to get the fans involved, and they actually care about the fans. You can actually walk on the track (with the properly purchased ticket) before the race. The drivers are extremely friendly and down to earth.
All sports say that the fans are the most important part of the game. NASCAR lives it. Say what you will about the sport itself, but they know how important the fans are, and they go out of their way to show it.
So, yeah, okay, there's the Dover Downs hotel and casino, which is really cool if that sort of thing is your bag. It has several terrific restaurants in it of many different varieties. Many of the rooms have windows that face the racetrack out of which you can look while a race happens to be going on, if you happen to be staying in the hotel on raceday, if you catch my drift. (You can watch the race without buying a ticket from certain rooms. But you didn't hear that from me.)
Beyond that, there are fast food places, a mall, and chain restaurants. I wouldn't venture too far past the college across the street from the racetrack. I'm just saying.
I would imagine that this part would be similar in most cities with a speedway, but the fans in Dover are just terrific. NASCAR fans are a bit unusual in that they aren't rooting for the local team, rather, they are rooting for their favorite driver. Thus, you don't have the fear of, say, a Cowboys fan at Lincoln Financial Field. You won't see a kid in a Tony Stewart shirt getting beaten up because he isn't rooting for the home driver, because there is no home driver, so the fans tend to all get along. Name one other sporting event where a perfect stranger that is not rooting for the same outcome as you will offer you a beer. You can't. And not just because you can't bring beer in anywhere else.
No public transit means you have to drive, but you cannot miss it. I mean, I suppose you could if you were blind, as it's a gigantic monolith near both U.S. Route 13 and Delaware Route 1, but then you probably shouldn't be driving anyway. There is tons of parking. The bathrooms are about what you would expect for a facility that opened in 1969, present and operational.
There is a bit of a conundrum here: the ticket packages are not cheap, but you have to consider what you get. This isn't a ball game here. This is an event. A NASCAR race isn't something you can do every weekend, like a ball game. It happens once or twice a year. Lots of people plan their vacations around them. Dover is a place where that works: you have the casino, it's close to beaches, and there's...um, the casino? Philly? Help me out here. Personally, I like the idea of a long weekend with the races and staying in the hotel.
Three words: DuPont. Monster. Bridge. (One extra point for each word.) About 40 feet above turn 3 is a Plexiglas bridge where you can watch the race from DIRECTLY OVER THE TRACK. Make sure whatever package you buy includes access to the bridge. You can't buy a seat on it, those are giveaway prizes only, but with the properly purchased pass, you can walk across it. (Generally a hot pit pass will do. Get one.)
Bring ear plugs. It is difficult to describe how loud it was. I'm fairly certain my heart stopped when 43 stock cars drove under me. Did I mention how loud it was? Dude, it was LOUD. And thrilling.
A NASCAR fan will enjoy this historical venue for what it is. A non-fan will enjoy the experience. The Monster Mile is a must see if you are in Dover. Really, there isn't much else to do in Dover anyway, so you might as well go. Tell Miles I said hi.
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