As a spectator, I’ve been going to Dover for years.
The sights, smells, and thrills of the Monster Mile make it one of the two tracks I am thrilled to call “Hometown.”
The RV lots' and parking spaces fill and overflow yearly with NASCAR fans tailgating early. Local businesses shut their doors and turn their parking lots into $5 and $10 parking zones for the track traffic.
And NASCAR Nation comes to play; loud and proud dressed in their driver’s colors and ready to turn the mile-long speedway into a bullring of absolute excitement.
The souvenir trailers, special events, and show cars line the main drive. The smell of pit-beef barbecue, grilled pork tenderloin, and grilled and barbecued chicken hit your senses long before the smell of rubber and high-octane race fuel.
The fans in Dover come twice-a-year every year with the hopes of hitting the casino and gambling on the track, wishing to hit it big before gambling on their driver to "master the monster."
For this weeks guest I turned to Mike Calinoff, spotter for Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing.
Dover’s high banks and fast speed provide a lot of excitement; as a spotter, Calinoff has seen Dover from the roof for years.
When asked his views of the speedway he said, “Dover is one of my favorite tracks because Matt (Kenseth) runs well there. I love the fact that you carry so much speed into the corners and that there are three good grooves.”
“I think that the double-file restarts are going to be really interesting—particularly at the end of the race.”
Battles in the closing laps at Dover are customary, almost every race you can see the lead change hands over-and-over.
The Monster will, however, reach up and bite you.
The turns are treacherous, and the newly revamped pit road is easier to manage, but Calinoff can tell you it wasn’t always so.
“In 2004, Matt made a mistake entering the pit road and took out the water barrels. Nobody was very fond of that.”
Until this season, 42 pit boxes were shared among the 43 drivers. The renovations and care taken by speedway personnel made vast improvements.
Like most of the visitors to Dover, Calinoff enjoyed the areas that many came for: off-track excitement.
“My favorite thing is going to the casino to gamble,” Calinoff said. Then he quickly added, “My least favorite thing is losing money at the casino.”
You can keep an ear on your race day scanners and an eye on the track to watch as Calinoff guides Kenseth around the mayhem this weekend at Dover.
Featured Spotter Bio:
Name: Mike Calinoff
Hometown: Mooresville, NC
Team Spotter Since: With Matt from 2000-2005; David Stremme 2006-2007; Dario Franchitti through July of 2008; Tony Stewart for the 2008 Chase.
Favorite Sport (other than racing): Poker
Favorite Food: Anything I can pronounce; I’m not picky and I love Sushi
Favorite Music/Song: I like music from ABBA to Zappa; Big Blues fan and Billy Joel; favorite song is “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
Favorite Movie: Wizard of Oz
Favorite Off Track Activity: Spending time with my wife.
Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCalinoff