NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Ryan Truex visited Robert S. Gallaher Elementary School in Newark, Del., on Tuesday, April 25 to help announce the winner of Dover International Speedway’s second-annual Monster Mile Youth Nation Design Challenge.
Approximately 200 fourth- and fifth-graders lined the sidewalk around the school as a police escort, complete with motorcycles, cars and flashing lights, led the student-designed pace car, driven by Truex, into the school’s driveway.
The winning designer, Gallaher fifth-grader Calista Rakshit (pronounced Rock-SHEET), immediately recognized her concept, an ocean theme including depictions of a dolphin, a sting ray, jellyfish, a sea turtle, sea horses and plant life.
“That’s a better drawing than anything I could do,” said Truex, a Mayetta, N.J., native and driver of the No. 16 Sea Watch International Toyota for Hattori Racing. “I grew up near the beach, so when I got to drive a car with a beach scene on it, I thought that was pretty cool.”
Calista’s parents, Sanjoy and Fina, as well as little sister Indira, also attended the presentation. Calista said she chose the ocean scene because of a recent family vacation.
“I can’t believe I met a real-life driver,” Calista said. “I was really surprised.”
Truex, 25, will be one of the contenders in the “Bar Harbor 200” presented by Sea Watch International NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Monster Mile on Friday, June 2, part of the upcoming June 2-4 NASCAR tripleheader weekend.
More than 2,500 fifth-graders from 21 schools across Delaware participated in the Monster Mile Youth Nation Design Challenge, which saw students submit colorful and creative design ideas for the Monster Mile’s official pace car during national “Youth Art Month” in March.
The winning design, selected by a team from the Dover International Speedway marketing and communications departments, was placed on the pace car earlier this month.
Following the outdoor activities, the students assembled in Gallaher’s cafeteria for a video presentation and a chance to ask Truex questions about his racing career, which has included starts in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series. Before and after the assembly, the award-winning Christiana High School Steel Band performed some favorites, including “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” in honor of Calista’s design.
Truex fielded a range of queries, including how fast he as ever gone in a car (“220 miles per hour during a test session”) to injuries he has suffered (the worst ones were a concussion and broken wrist), dirt racing (first attempt will be this year at Eldora) and how he began his racing career.
“I was 14 years old when I started, older than you all are now,” Truex said. “My father had a race team, so I was around it early on. Everyone’s got something they are good at and for me, it was racing. Having my family be involved from the start has been a big key to my success.”
As part of her prize, Calista will receive a VIP experience at the Saturday, June 3 NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash race in Dover, including the opportunity to be on-stage for pre-race activities. The weekend is highlighted by the “AAA 400 Drive for Autism” Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, June 4.