Stories From a Short Track, Vol. 1: "Dipstick Down" - NoScheduleMan.com

Stories From a Short Track, Vol. 1: “Dipstick Down”

Here’s a True Story  …

In my days as Sales and Marketing Director at Delaware Speedway (a half-mile stock car racing track near London, Ontario, Canada), we were always looking for ways to expand our fan base and broaden our demographic.

And we wanted to appeal to kids. Future customers.

At one point, we came upon the notion that, perhaps, the track would benefit from the presence of a “mascot;” you know, like the San Diego Chicken, to whom the kids would relate. Armed with the knowledge that Charlotte Motor Speedway had such a mascot, named “Lugnut,” we decided to embark upon our own characterized adventure. After some deliberation, we settled upon the name “Dipstick,” for three main reasons:

  1. A dipstick was part of any vehicle’s engine. It’s how you checked the oil!
  1. “Dipstick” was what Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane often called Deputy Enos in the TV Show, “The Dukes of Hazzard”
  1. We wanted to poke a little bit of fun at ourselves

After agreeing on the name, I can well remember the discussions of character design: should he have a “T”-shaped head, or a “loop?”

We began examining the dipsticks of any nearby vehicle we could find and, in time, decided that a “T”-shaped head would make for a better character.

Yeah.

We also embarked upon the task of finding a company that could actually design and construct the costume for us (We eventually found a business based out of Edmonton, Alberta. The name escapes me, but they were the ones that made the costume).

In the preliminary drawings, Dipstick actually looked pretty cool, and somewhat agile.

In reality, he was shipped to us in a giant crate. And the costume inside ended up being one big, rigid, giant, heavy box that afforded the person inside almost no mobility, limited visibility and nothing for reach but the equivalent of little T-Rex arms.

In short, a lot of money later, Dipstick was a disaster.

Whoops.

Undaunted, we decided to unveil our new creation to the “world” (or, about 1500 people) at the race track’s annual appearance a London Knights Ontario Hockey League game (note: this was back in the day when the Knights played in a rinky-dink arena and few people followed them with much passion. Nowadays, the Knights pack around 9,000 people into almost every home game. This event pre-dated that trend).

Between periods, our new mascot was to take to the ice to wave to the fans and thereby represent the race track proudly and convert all in attendance at that hockey game into instant stock car racing fans. The plan was foolproof!

When the time came, the players left for their dressing rooms and the zamboni set about its duty, flooding one clean patch of ice down the middle of the rink to begin the task of cleaning the playing surface.

Dipstick stepped out in front of the fans and took a few tentative steps on the frozen stage. Gaining confidence with each step, he shuffled further into the center of the rink, only to come across the freshly flooded center spot where the Zamboni had just recently been.

“Whoosh!”

As soon as Dipstick hit that flooded patch of ice, his feet went out from under him.

The box-like behemoth of a mascot landed with a resounding thud, and it quickly became apparent that the dimensions of the costume were going to make it a challenge for the person inside to get up and resume entertaining the crowd.

As if that were the only problem.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

Dipstick Down! Me & Stephen Richmond (in the blue and white race suit) try to help our fallen mascot. Photo by Janice Richmond.

With Dipstick flat on his back, in front of the crowd during intermission of a hockey game at the old London Ice House, I walked over to him, along with young Stephen Richmond, a Delaware Speedway Junior Racing League competitor at the time. When we arrived at our fallen mascot, we both figured that we’d be able to take his hand and lift him back to his feet.

But that didn’t work.

We tried to raise him off the ice.

Nothing.

We tried again.

He didn’t budge.

It was then that I realized, with our newly minted mascot lying flat-out on our local hockey team’s playing surface, that we had a bigger problem on our hands.

Dipstick had frozen to the ice.

The “flood” left by the zamboni mixed with the fabric of Dipstick’s costume and, by the time he’d fallen, the water had frozen, taking Dipstick’s upper body with it.

He was stuck.

True story.

I can well remember it. People in the stands were howling. Tyler Anderson, who was inside the costume, was flat on his back and staring straight up at the ceiling. He commented that all he could see were, “bright lights.”

We eventually got him up and off the ice surface, and the game continued. I can’t recall who won.

But I can tell you this:

Next time you come up with the “next great idea,” take a few extra days and think it through. Once you’ve examined every angle, you may find it’ll work out fine.

Then again, you may end up with your Dipstick stuck to the ice.

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