Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Start/Finish Line

This morning I was asked if I was busy at 10am. Jokingly, I asked, why, for what had I been volunteered?

I had been volunteered to be a guinea pig on the new Segway Tour of the Track at Dover International Speedway. I jumped on board. Ok, well, I hesitated about a mili-second.

 We drove around to the Start/Finish Line where the group was congregating in the parking lot outside the track. About a dozen Segways were lined up against the fence. After a brief tutorial to us as a group our Segway Guide had each of us, one at a time, get on our Segways while he gave us individual instruction. As I stepped on I panicked and started to wobble. He assured me that was perfectly normal. (I’m sure he tells all the first timers that.) He had me do a few ups and backs, lefts and rights and then sent me on my way around the parking lot for a five minute practice. Honestly, after the five minutes I was more comfortable than I thought I would be. It was easy. Our Segway Guide had joked during his tutorial about becoming one with the Segway. Literally, it worked that way. 

Our Track Tour Guide, Brian Citino, the Track’s Communications Manager, had us all turn on our ear pieces as he tested out his mic. He explained that we could lag behind or cruise right along at our own pace checking out the scenery while he gave his spiel. 

Off we went. We left the parking lot and began cruising the opposite way the race runs yet on the outside of the track. We were at the Start/Finish Line so we cruised past Turn 4 and then Turn 3. Our first stop was clear to the opposite side of the Track. Apparently they do this to give you some practice time on the Segways. What a great idea. 

As we approached Turn 3 it came to mind we were headed to a steep hill I have been over many times, yet in a Golf Cart. Never on a Segway. I was a little nervous. However, we all scaled it with ease to reach the top of the Hill and the Back Straight Away, still on the outside of the Track. We parked the Segways (I’m not a fan of the dismount, but I did get used to it) and climbed the 20 or so stairs to the Monster Bridge. 

In the 7 years since the Bridge was built this was only my third time ever going in, and not yet lucky enough to attend a Race in the bridge (hint hint). It is amazing. It is breath taking. Brian gave us specifics about the Bridge’s construction and safety and I got goose bumps hearing those facts again. The thought and planning and engineering that went into the Bridge- WOW! And it’s so safe that IF any car ever went airborne into it, the car would see more damage than anyone inside- again WOW!

We took some pictures and heard about some celebs and sports stars that have been invited to watch Races there: Nick Lachey, Hulk Hogan, Deidre Downs, Mario Batalia, and of course many, many Race Car Drivers and Car Owners. We did a short Q&A and put Brian to the test before we finished up in the Monster Bridge. What a piece of amazing architecture. 

We then hopped back onto our Segways and traveled back down the hill from which we came. My anticipation of how hard the hill would be going down was completely over rated. Hill or Flat Land, all the same on a Segway, easy. Back around the Track we traveled now knowing, like pros which little route to travel to avoid some of the bumpier areas. Brian gave us some information on the Fan Zone located outside of Turn 3 and reminded us that with an entire week, yet only three Races of about 4 hours each, Fans and Families need something to keep them entertained. Hence, the Fan Zone. My kiddos love the FanZone, more on that another time. 

We arrived at Monster Miles and heard some statistics and facts about him and decided to take a few more pictures. Brian got our attention when he jokingly told us that the real life stock car Miles is held in place by four bolts and they haven’t been checked or inspected since they were installed. Gee, I hope no one tells Hurricane Irene that.

Anyway, this time we never dismounted our Segways. Instead we all tried to remain still while Brian was talking but found ourselves moving in place using only our leaning skills (remember, we’re Pros by now). Once the Monster segment was completed we made our way to the track through the Gates at the Start/Finish Line. We stopped and took in the scene with the entire Race Track all to ourselves. No roaring engines, no screaming fans, no smell of burnt rubber. It was a moment of serene silence realizing that in about a month so many of those seats would be filled with Fans that follow their sport religiously. And all in our little home town backyard. 

Brian led us straight down the track at the Start/Finish Line and stopped us at Pit Road. The straight away embankment and it’s nine degrees was a little intimidating. But remembering the hill on the opposite side of the track and the fact that we were all Pros now, we gracefully made our way down. After a run down of the Track Capacity, the Track’s Safety Center, and a little of the Track’s History, we rolled on. 

Awaiting our arrival in the Sprint Cup Garage was Track Historian, and retired local High School History Teacher, George Keller. What a brilliant man. Of course this was not my first time meeting Mr. Keller, or hearing how brilliant he was. It is however, yet another reminder of that fact. Mr. Keller spouted out numbers that blew our minds: the number of tires used in a Race by drivers and the Track altogether, the cost of each tire, the gallons of gas, the cost of a gallon of Sunoco Racing Fuel (Holy Gas Tank, Batman!). Mr. Keller rattled off the stats with pure joy. He smiled the entire time, he grinned like a little school kid on the playground. He thoroughly enjoys what he does. 

Brian and Mr. Keller then steered us over to the Infield Media Center. This building was recently revamped and according to Mr. Keller is famous for being the second best Media Center on the circuit (he stated with pride in his eyes). We sat and watched a short music video that hyped us up on the happenings at the Track from the 60s, 70s, and beyond. What special talent it took for that video to be made using still shots from so long ago. The video was just long enough to see some great shots and take a breather in the air conditioning. 

Then off we rolled again, this time back down Pit Row to the Winner’s Circle (it never really is a circle). Mr. Keller wowed us again with his stories of bringing the champagne to the area and moving back once the driver gets out of his Race Car so as not to get all sticky. He laughed as he told us of getting stuck in one spot from all the sprays of celebratory drinks flying around in enthusiasm. We took time for a few pictures and a few more stories and then headed back to the Start/Finish Line where it all began. 

But not before I hightailed it up that nine degree straight away and hit top speed on the Segway going the wrong way on the Famous Monster Mile. Eat your heart out Jeff Gordon! I hit 12.5mph!

The Segway Track Tours are reserved by calling 302-883-6561. According to the waiver I signed you must be at least 14 years old to drive the Segway.
I recommend the Segway Track Tour not only for Race Fans but all Delawareans. Come see what’s in your backyard. This was a great tour!

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