Getting Dirty: NASCAR marks return to dirt track for 1st time since 1970

  • Article by: DAN GELSTON , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 24, 2013 - 7:14 AM
hide

Tony Stewart owns the dirt track where NASCAR will race tonight.

Photo: Brian Czobat, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Time to attach the mud flaps.

NASCAR is set for an off-road detour through the dirt.

The Truck Series is headed for the Eldora Speedway half-mile dirt track for a one-night only special designed to reconnect NASCAR with its early roots and give fans raised on asphalt and stock cars a taste of the wild races run in the dust.

The last time one of NASCAR's top touring series competed on dirt was Sept. 30, 1970, when Richard Petty won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (called the Grand National Division at that time) race at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

The dirt drought ends when the trucks race Wednesday night at Tony Stewart-owned Eldora in Rossburg, Ohio.

Stewart, still a regular on the weeknight racing circuit, has naturally become a big booster of NASCAR's return to dirt. Most of the field drove their first Eldora laps at Tuesday's practice.

"It's a neat facility," Stewart said. "It's well lit, it's a wide racetrack, it gives you a lot of options of where you can go and what you can do. I think it gives those guys an opportunity. The practice day on Tuesday should help a lot of those teams be able to get acclimated before they come back to the track on Wednesday."

Eldora's grandstands are sold out for the 9:30 p.m. ET race, even as some of the series' biggest winners, like Kyle Busch, are sitting out. Ryan Newman and Dave Blaney are the only Cup drivers in the field. The race will feature a handful of so-called ringers, such as Scott Bloomquist, a member of the National Dirt Track Hall of Fame with more than 500 victories in a lengthy career. The 49-year-old Bloomquist is set to make his NASCAR debut driving the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"It's going to be something different I'm sure, but it's a race car and I've driven a lot of race cars," he said. "Never a truck, but it's still a race car."

The race also gets a twist on qualifying. There are five, eight-lap qualifying events and a 15-lap last-chance race to come up with the 30 competitors (regularly 36 in the series) who will start the 150-lap Mudsummer Classic. Because there is no pit road, the race is broken into three segments of 60, 50 and 40 laps.

Trucks driver James Buescher raved about Eldora after he tested there.

"It was a lot more fun than I expected it to be," he said. "It's definitely going to be interesting when we get 30 trucks on the track at the same time in tight quarters like that. It's going to be an action-packed race. I just hope there's not too many cautions."

It could happen. After all, the trucks weren't built to race on dirt, so some adjustments were needed.

The Goodyear dirt tire has been widened from 10 to 11 inches to provide a larger contact patch with the track and give the trucks more grip. While the Eldora right-side tire will basically remain the same height as a NASCAR tire run on asphalt tracks, the left-side is 3 inches shorter (85.8 inches) to build in more stagger, which will help the trucks turn better.

The trucks will be fitted for mesh shields and hood deflectors to hold off debris kicked up from the muck.

The drivers who know how to get dirty are the easy favorites.

Kyle Larson, pegged as NASCAR's next big star, is one of the few drivers with experience on the dirt oval. Larson is one of only two drivers to sweep the USAC Four Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway. Larson also won in the USAC Midgets in 2012.

There's a reason this track was selected for him to make his second Truck Series start of the season.

"I have been looking forward to this race for a really long time," he said. "I've had a lot of fun racing at Eldora and have had quite a bit of success, so I am excited to get back. I can't wait to see how the trucks run there."

Even with the lengthy gap between NASCAR dirt races, fans and drivers are buzzing over the race, a rarity in a series that often runs in front of mostly empty grandstands as a support race in a Sprint Cup weekend.

But a big crowd, big ratings and a great race could go far in making an Eldora a regular stop on the Truck Series circuit — and maybe make stock car racing there a reality.

"If it has incredible success, who knows how far this could go?" driver Kenny Wallace said. "You could put the Nationwide Series there. One thing I always remind people of — and I race dirt all over the United States — this is where Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman came from. Three quarters of the field in Sprint Cup came from dirt tracks just like Eldora. I think this is a really good deal."

The race comes six weeks after the death of NASCAR driver Jason Leffler on a dirt track in New Jersey. State police say a mechanical problem was to blame for the spinout that ended with Leffler's car slamming into a concrete wall.

The 37-year-old Long Beach, Calif., native was a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series and a one-time winner in the Truck Series.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 7:00 PM
Miami
Indiana 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Utah 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Portland 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
Golden State
San Jose 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Toronto 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:30 PM
Montreal
Arizona 7:00 PM
Nashville
Carolina 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Philadelphia 7:30 PM
Chicago
Vancouver 7:30 PM
Dallas
Florida 8:00 PM
Colorado
Tampa Bay 8:00 PM
Calgary
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close