by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.June 7, 2008 10:00 am UTC 1 Comment
Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway hosted The Prelude to the Dream.
Twenty-five drivers, mostly from NASCAR, took to the dirt at the Ohio speedway to have some fun and raise some money for Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp last Wednesday night. Heavy rains overnight and throughout the morning made the race in doubt until the sun came out in the afternoon in time to get the half-mile race track in shape to race. Stewart led the crew to prepare the track as race fans could see the Cup Champ working the tractor to help bring the track in.
Big time Cup drivers love the event as it allows them to get back to their younger days before all the media and fans made their every move circumspect. Jeff Gordon talked his team mate and friend Jimmy Johnson into running on the dirt this year and were said to be working on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for 2009. Gordon characterized running at Eldora in the late models as addicting.
Joe Menzer at NASCAR.com writes about current Cup owner, former crew chief and dirt driver Ray Evernham being asked about putting a dirt race back on the Sprint Cup Series:
“That would be awesome,” Evernham says. “You’d probably see me come out of retirement and be a mechanic again. I think it would be great. These guys are the greatest drivers in the world, and, you know, why not? We run short tracks; we run superspeedways; we run mile-and-a-halfs; we run road courses. Why not run dirt, too?
“We could do it, and I think these guys would love to do it.”
The perfect opportunity to try out the concept comes up on Labor Day when the ARCA Re/Max Series heads to DuQuoin State Fairgrounds for the Southern Illinois 100. The Cup Series runs the Pepsi 500 on Sunday August 31st at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The 7:30pm east coast start would have the race finished before 11pm. Drivers could be in DuQuoin for the 1pm Monday start and get some dirt track racing in on cars that more closely resemble their everyday race car.
Current NASCAR drivers have had some success in the ARCA Series on the southern Illinois dirt. Kenny Schrader has two wins and two poles at the 1 mile clay oval. Tony Stewart has a win and three poles, while Jeremy Mayfield and Mike Wallace also have a pole. DuQuoin is one of two clay ovals on the ARCA circuit. The Re/Max Series also runs on the dirt at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield on the 17th of August.
The logistics may have been impossible years ago, but with most drivers and teams having private aircraft, a NASCAR presence is quite possible–if they truly like “Playing in the Dirt.”