WHERE: Dover, Del.
WHY: NASCAR races, a monster bridge and
4 a.m. casino gambling.
HOW FAR: 102 miles, or two hours and 20 minutes from the District.
Release your inner Dale Earnhardt Jr. when NASCAR zooms into the Dover International Speedway twice a year. True, you can't slide behind the wheel yourself, but the roar of the engines whizzing down the straightaways and whipping around the turns will put your adrenalin in overdrive. NASCAR's spring trek to "The Monster Mile," as Dover's racetrack is called, culminates in the Nextel Cup Series MBNA RacePoints 400 today at 1 p.m. On Sept. 23-25, the Dover oval again hosts a weekend of racing, including another Nextel Cup main event.
Wherever you sit at the speedway, you can add to the thunder by cheering on Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon or your favorite driver as you wait for the telltale wave of the checkered flag. But the coolest seats in the house are on top of the track: The glass-enclosed DuPont Monster Bridge is suspended 29 feet above the pavement. It's tricked out with 56 cushy seats, flat screen TVs, a bar and live audio access so you can listen as the drivers communicate with their crews. Built last year, the bridge is the only spot at the track where drivers zip beneath your feet.
"When all the cars are zooming around the track, it can be pretty deafening," says Gary Camp, director of public relations for the speedway. "But that's part of the fun. DuPont made sure you could still feel and hear the race and didn't lose that part of the experience."
But don't reach into your wallet. Money won't land you a seat in this paned perch. Instead, fans win seats through online promotions (keep an eye out on www.doverspeedway.com, where you can also buy tickets for the outdoor seats).
Race-day action isn't just confined to the track, though. What goes on outside can be almost as much fun. Abandon yourself to a carnival-like atmosphere that includes tailgating, souvenir shopping and swapping, and 24-7 partying. Looking for more entertainment? No need to leave the property. The casino at Dover Downs boasts the largest number of slots (2,500) in Delaware. Try your luck at one-armed bandits like Yukon Gold, Uncle Sam and Monte Carlo. Five restaurants under one roof mean you've got options: Splurge at upscale eatery Michele's or dine on a dime at the Winner's Circle buffet. And on the drive home, pretend there's a one in front of the 55 on your speedometer.
Dover International Speedway, 1131 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, Del., 800-441-7223, www.doverspeedway.com. June 5: Nextel Series MBNA RacePoints 400 at 1 p.m., $50-$84; Sept. 23: Busch North Series MBNA RacePoints 150 at 4:15 p.m., $26-$31, 11 and younger $5; Sept. 24: Busch Series Dover 200 at 1:30 p.m., $45-$50, 11 and younger $7; Sept 25: Nextel Series MBNA RacePoints 400 at 1:30 p.m., $50-$84.
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