In western Ohio near where the mighty Wabash River headwaters begin, sits Eldora Speedway, one of the more famed tracks of its kind. On Wednesday July 24th, there began a stream of racing that may make into a river of history in the years to come and grow as big as the Wabash.
One of the most anticipated racing events to come along in quite awhile was obviously as good as advertised. And believe me, there was a lot of advertising. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced at Eldora – a mile outside New Weston, Ohio – which is a half-mile clay oval track owned by famed NASCAR multi-Cup champion, Tony ‘Smoke’ Stewart. The facility is widely popular among dirt track fans and just may be the beginning of something much bigger.
2011 champ wins
Many of the regular Truck drivers were at the Mudsummer Classic, but in amongst them were dirt trackers from every walk of racing, trying to make history. In the end, in front of 20,000 fans, a former Truck champion, Austin Dillon, held off all comers to win the historic race (source: NASCAR). It was historic because for starters, in the 20 seasons that the Truck series has existed, they had never run on dirt before. On a larger scale, it had been 43 years since NASCAR last raced on dirt – North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. That was on the last day of September in 1970 and Richard Petty drove his #43 to victory at the half-mile dirt track.
This time around, after five heat races plus a last chance race, 30 drivers qualified for the main event and drove a total of 150 laps around the renowned track with its 24 degree banking. Dillon held off young up-and-coming driver Kyle Larson and veteran Cup driver Ryan Newman in an exciting finish that saw Kyle repeatedly take a shot at Austin, only to be rebuffed each time.
Trucks didn’t disappoint
The big heavy trucks were a different beast than what dirt guys are used to driving and it showed at times. Still, the action was great and there wasn’t anyone who was disappointed at the racing. Even those who lost were excited and wanted to do it again. Obviously, this kind of racing is what NASCAR should be seriously looking at.
Dirt track NASCAR racing was truly fun to watch from the slide jobs to short heat races. This kind of action has to be a part of NASCAR in every form of their racing and needs to be added at the Nationwide level as well as Cup.
NASCAR has attempted, without much in the way of results, to create excitement at their events and attract new fans. They need go no further than what everyone saw at Eldora as it was a perfect example of what dirt racing can offer.
It’s obvious that what started back in the ‘50s at Eldora’s Ballroom and transformed into a racing facility can help NASCAR. And just like the Wabash that starts off as a shallow river before gaining size and depth as it heads into Indiana, so too is the story unfolding in NASCAR with dirt racing.
This week is the Brickyard at Indianapolis. What should be flowing through the minds of NASCAR officials is how to take advantage of what obviously is something big and that is: going back to its roots of dirt racing – which just might be the answer to NASCAR’s issues with attendance and viewers.
The Wabash River heads south through Indiana where it eventually joins the Ohio, bringing it back full circle so-to-speak. NASCAR dirt racing would bring it back full circle to where it all started. What we learned at Eldora was obvious.