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Anyone who has seen or watched a race at Dover International Speedway knows that the Miles the Monster trophy presented to race winners is no stranger to a party.
But the celebration the trophy experienced on Dec. 10 in Cressona, Pa. was much different from the champagne-soaked, confetti-covered madness it’s put through twice each year in Dover’s Sunoco Victory Lane.
The Cressona Fire Company No. 1 threw a blowout celebration — which included a parade with 45 fire trucks and emergency vehicles, as well as the Dover International Speedway official pace truck — to welcome their very own Miles the Monster trophy to town for the next year. The fire company received the trophy after winning the inaugural Firehouse Challenge at the Oct. 2, 2011 “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Monster Mile.
Along with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Monster Mile challenged fire companies to see who could get the largest group of firefighters to attend the NFFF Firefighter Appreciation event at the race, with the winner receiving a Miles the Monster trophy.
For the past four years, Dover International Speedway and the NFFF have partnered to feature a special hospitality event for firefighters and their families prior to each fall’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. The Firehouse Challenge is the newest addition to the partnership, and to date the Monster Mile has donated $305,899 to the NFFF.
After learning of the hospitality option and Firehouse Challenge, Leroy Long, vice president for the fire company, said he saw the perfect fundraiser opportunity for the department, one that would also give the other firefighters an enjoyable day at the race.
What Long didn’t expect was that after attending the Monster Mile’s fall race that his fire company would have its very own Monster to bring home, as the group from Cressona came to the track 35 participants strong and won the contest.
“We were all excited,” he said. “We didn’t even know what to say.”
NFFF representative Eric Nagle and Dover International Speedway Director of Corporate and Group Ticket Sales Rob Scholl were on hand to present the trophy to the Cressona firefighters.
The trophy, the same model that is awarded to the winners of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races at Dover, will live at the Cressona fire house for the next year, and then be up for grabs again when the challenge hits its second go-round during the Sept. 30, 2012, “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
The fine folks of Cressona will be tough to top in welcoming the trophy in the future, as the nearly mile-long parade rang its sirens through town, giving Miles what resembled a hero’s welcome.
The real heroes, however, were the 35 firefighters that came with the Cressona Fire Company to take advantage of the hospitality option, which generates donations for the NFFF. And through all the festivities of the day, Long wanted to make sure the work the NFFF does was not lost.
“What the families have to go through [after losing a loved one that is a firefighter], it’s hard,” he said, fighting back tears. “But when you lose a firefighter it’s hard on the family. And for what [the NFFF and Dover does] for the families and the support they give them, it means a great deal to us.”
Dover International Speedway and the NFFF will be teaming up again in 2012 to offer the firefighter hospitality package, as well as run the Second Annual Firehouse Challenge. Firefighters and their families are encouraged to attend, with the package costing only $109 for 2012 and moving forward. The hospitality package includes your race ticket, complimentary food and beverage in the NFFF tent, and your firehouse’s chance to win its own Miles the Monster trophy.
For more information, call 800-441-RACE.