News: National Guard soldiers treated to seats at NASCAR’s infamous 'Monster Mile'
Story by Staff Sgt. Wendy McDougall
DOVER, Del. - Delaware, the First State, is the second smallest state in the nation and home of NASCAR’s infamous “Monster Mile.” Twice a year, NASCAR and all its fanfare take Delaware’s capital city, Dover, by storm for a whirlwind weekend of racing at Dover Downs. The September race was no different for the average race fan. However, for dozens of National Guard soldiers, the weekend was above average.
On Sept. 29, the National Guard Bureau treated soldiers from several states to seats inside the track at the National Guard's mobile recruiting display, along with a tour of the garage area and a special guest appearance from the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass.
“Let me say thank you for serving in the National Guard and serving your nation. There’s about 75 percent of the U.S. population serving in uniform,” Grass said. “That’s less than 1 percent, and you are part of that.”
Gen. Grass was upstaged a bit when Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, showed up for a meet and greet with soldiers. While winning is Earnhardt’s favorite part of racing, driving for the National Guard is also rewarding.
“The unique part about it is, when you’re representing the military, you’re representing a career choice, a lifestyle, and a commitment,” Earnhardt said. [When on recruiting duty] “You’re not trying to talk to somebody about buying a diet soda off a shelf. It’s a much heavier responsibility when you are dealing with the military, because you are trying to recruit an individual to make a career choice, a lifestyle choice and I take that very seriously.”
Since 2008, Earnhardt drives the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet. Coming into Dover, the No. 88 ranked 10th in the race for the chase points; sitting in the pole position. While Earnhardt Jr. raced a good race, he was beat out in the end, finishing second to Jimmie Johnson.
Like the First State, Dover Downs’ “Monster Mile” has several notable firsts. It was the first track on the circuit to be paved in concrete in 1995. The first race following the attack on 9/11 was held in Dover and Dale Earnhardt Jr. won. “The most exciting seats in sports” are inside Dover’s Monster Bridge that extends over turn three, allowing race fans to watch the cars pass under their feet at 170 miles per hour! This is the only structure of its kind in NASCAR.