Miles the Monster
The high-banked concrete oval at Dover International Speedway is known as "The Monster Mile" -- so it's perfectly reasonable that its management would build a giant monster as its mascot.
Miles the Monster seems cut from the same angular genetic branch as The Thing and The Hulk. His glowing red eyes -- a trait shared by other monsters -- can be seen from Hwy 1, a half-mile away.
"We've had him as our mascot since 2000," said Joe Heller, the racetrack's PR coordinator. "He usually has legs." Joe pointed to banners hanging from light poles that showed Miles with his blocky bottom half. "But to for this thing to have legs, it would have been 80 feet tall! How are you gonna get a photo opportunity with that? So we figured we'd do it this way."
The compromise was to show only the monster's upper half. Miles was created on the "theme of concrete," according to Joe, and has been posed as if erupting out of the racetrack's pavement and grabbing an unlucky racecar -- a real car, by the way, which provides a handy scale reference for the monster's size. Miles' menacing snarl suggests that he is about to destroy the car, just as the racetrack destroys the hopes of NASCAR drivers.
Joe said that Miles was part of a $6 million project known as the "Monster Makeover," which makes Miles not only the world's largest monster (46 feet tall, 20 tons) but also the world's most expensive. This merits respect. When Miles was unveiled in 2008, the ceremony was attended not only by the mayor of Dover, but also by the governor of Delaware. Miles' circular base is lined with granite plaques paying tribute to the winners of every Dover NASCAR race since the track opened in 1969. The base is so large that it has room for winners until 2035.
Miles was getting a cosmetic touch-up with a stucco gun when we visited, and Joe invited us around back to a secret door in his base. Inside, a ladder ascended into the monster's metal innards, reminding us of the tank-like climb up the UFO Landing Port or, in olden days, the Statue of Liberty. "You get to the top, then you do a belly crawl inside his arm out to the hand, and you can sit in the car," Joe explained. The owner of the company that built Miles enjoyed this rare opportunity, but probably no one else will. "Liability issues," said Joe.
The Dover monster is watched by 24-hour security, and protected behind a fence on the days when no one's around. But this is more out of fear that someone might steal one of the granite plaques, rather than cause any harm to Miles.
"He's rock hard," Joe said, with no pun intended. "You could hit him with a sledgehammer, and you know what? You'd probably suffer more damage than he would."