DOVER, Del. - Moments after extricating his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame from the stock car's cockpit, Sav Rocca walked sheepishly toward the board toting the speeds posted during yesterday's exhibition runs at Dover International Speedway.
Rocca is no oversize would-be NASCAR driver, but rather a burly Australian-rules football star who hopes to turn coaches' heads when he joins fellow rookies and free agents for the opening of the Eagles' training camp tomorrow at Lehigh University.
By topping the charts with a run at 119.72 m.p.h., the punter surprised himself, gained the attention of his new teammates, and conquered the Monster Mile in his first stint behind the wheel of an American race car.
"That was awesome," Rocca said, genuinely shocked that he had blown away his first 10-lap-session speed of 99.31 m.p.h.
"I had been taking my foot off the gas going into the corners, but then I thought, 'If I crash it, then I crash it,' " he said with a laugh.
There were a lot of laughs to go around yesterday, when kicker David Akers led a contingent of Eagles players and executives onto the one-mile oval to take part in the Monster Racing drive-and-ride experience.
Since 1995, the program has offered expert instruction for fans who want to see the sport from inside the 3,400-pound racers. According to Monster Racing spokesman Gerry Wright, there never has been a serious injury.
Akers is an avid NASCAR fan. He hung out with race winner Martin Truex Jr. at Dover in June and often goes head-to-head with Truex and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in simulated racing online games.
"This is kind of our own deal," Akers said when asked whether he had sought permission from the Eagles to take part in his high-speed hobby.
Akers also has driven at tracks in Orlando, Fla., and Richmond, Va., but he achieved his personal best of 170 m.p.h. at Pocono Raceway.
"My bread and butter is kicking field goals, so, hopefully, I can do a good job of that this year and for years to come," he said. "But everything's a calculated risk. I haven't ridden [a motorcycle] since I signed my new deal.
"No matter what you do in life, whether it's riding roller coasters or surfing, it's a controlled risk."
Cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, safety Sean Considine, and linebacker Omar Gaither also were willing to take the risk.
"This was my first time in a race car, and I had no idea it would be this exciting. . . . What a rush," said Gaither, whose pit-road coaxing elicited an "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES" cheer from the 100 or so fans sitting in the grandstands.
Though he was surprised at how cramped it was inside the car, Gaither said he felt safer racing at nearly 125 m.p.h. on a track than he would riding a motorcycle on the highway.
"This is a controlled environment and these people [with Monster Racing] know what they're doing," the second-year linebacker said.
Riding or driving in three-car "packs," nose-to-tail around the concrete oval, the players couldn't hide their ultra-competitive nature - or their need for speed.
Gaither bristled when he saw that he had the slowest speed (92.402 m.p.h.) of his group in the first 10-lap session.
"I can't imagine anybody going that slow," he said in mock disbelief. "If you're going to go that slow, why even show up?"
Dover track officials posted these "official" speeds for the six Eagles players yesterday:
Sav Rocca, 119.72 m.p.h.
David Akers, 116.807 m.p.h.
Lito Sheppard, 116.504 m.p.h.
Omar Gaither, 116.429 m.p.h.
Sean Considine, 115.421 m.p.h.
Sheldon Brown, 113.924 m.p.h.
- Pete Schnatz