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Motorsports 101 Debate: What Will NASCAR’s Return to Dirt Racing Do for the Sport?

July 17th, 2013 at 11:09 AM
By Mark Eddinger

In one week NASCAR will return to the dirt. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will run the first national series race on dirt since 1970 in the 1-800-CARCASH Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime's The Profit at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday, July 24th. So what will this return to dirt racing do for the future of NASCAR? Motorsports 101's writers debate.

A Unique Event and a NASCAR Dirt Series? – By Clayton Caldwell

The Mudsummer Classic will be a big deal. No doubt it will change the future of NASCAR Racing and give NASCAR the option of coming to more dirt tracks in the future.

'Eldora Speedway Panorama' photo (c) 2006, csyork65 - license:
While the Eldora Speedway race will be one of the premier NASCAR events, it's unclear if we will see too many more dirt races added to NASCAR’s schedule. What will make the race so interesting is the fact that it is the only dirt race in NASCAR and dirt racing has a huge amount of fans that think asphalt is for driving to the racetrack on and not racing on.

The Mudsummer Classic will expose itself to those fans and while the Eldora race has received much publicity and will be sold out you have to wonder if it’s because it’s the first NASCAR dirt race in over 42 years. If a dirt race isn’t sold out, how NASCAR can afford to go? The Camping World Truck Series makes sense because the purse for those races is a lot less than the Cup Series. The drivers, team members and owners don’t nearly make the amount of money in the Truck Series as they do in the Cup Series. Eldora Speedway has to pay out a purse and they also have to make some money in the process. Tony Stewart, the owner of Eldora Speedway, will not want NASCAR to come back if he doesn’t make any money. 
Most of the dirt tracks around the country don’t have a huge capacity we commonly see in NASCAR.  If you look at the rules for Eldora Speedway only 30 trucks will make the show, different from the usual 36 that make a truck field on a weekly basis. The top 20, not the top 25 will be locked into the race. I am not sure I like that wrinkle in the rule book, but I understand why they are doing it. The track can only hold 30 trucks safely but it stinks for the teams that have run the entire season that will miss just because the track cannot hold 36 trucks.
We will not see normal pit stops at Eldora Speedway either. Instead, we will have six heat races and then one main 150 lap event split into three segments at the end of the night. It will add excitement, but NASCAR teams spend millions of dollars on their pit crews and to have more than one race without using a pit crew is kind of a waste of money for the teams. Of course you can make the teams do a mandatory pit stops, however that is again a waste of money as tires usually do not ware as bad on dirt as they do on asphalt. 
While the Mudsummer Classic will be a great show for many fans, I do not see NASCAR going to many more dirt races because of the fact that dirt tracks are a lot smaller than the big NASCAR tracks. If the inaugural race at Eldora is a success I think NASCAR needs to take other factors in. Could we possibly see a NASCAR dirt series? Maybe, however we are a long way away from seeing the Cup Series on a dirt track, unfortunately.

Excitement and an Open Door for the Future – By Mark Eddinger

The Camping World Truck Series date at Eldora Speedway has been marked on a lot of racing fan's calendars ever since it was announced. It will be a unique event to see and is one that people are genuinely excited for.

'Eldora Speedway' photo (c) 2007, Jeff Young - license:

The fans will be able to relate to the night of racing because it will be in a format very similar to what they have seen live and in person at their local dirt or paved short track. How the racing will be on track is up for debate but a good show especially from the Truck Series is almost a guarantee. The schedule just sounds exciting.

At 5 p.m. ET each truck will take two qualifying laps. That will set the lineups for the five 8-lap qualifying races which are set to start at 7 p.m. ET. Then there will even be a last chance qualifying race between all the trucks that have not locked in already and that is set for an 8:45 p.m. ET start. Then the 150 lap main event race will start at 9:35 p.m. ET and be split into three segments. The first 60 laps, the second 50 and the final segment 40 laps. All the racing will be seen live on SPEED.

It sure sounds exciting. Throw in the fact that some of the Truck Series regulars running for the championship have little or no dirt experience and the fact that there will be dirt ringers in the field and the show should not disappoint. Scott Bloomquist, a member of the National Dirt Track Hall of Fame, will drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Ryan Newman and Dave Blaney will be driving. NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader will also be in the field along with Tracy Hines, a former U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown and sprint car champion.

The official entry list is not out yet but there is expected to be way more than the 30 trucks that will make the main race so the qualifying races are going to be great.

The Mudsummer Classic should easily become a staple and one of the biggest races on the Truck Series schedule every year. The event should be a great success and the addition of other dirt races to the truck series could become a possibility out of this down the road. Then the door should be open for getting the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series on dirt. That certainly has to be in the cards as NASCAR is going to be in need of finding new ways to attract fans and keep the product fresh and exciting. Track seating capacities are being slashed at the Cup level as we speak because they have not been coming close to selling out so going to smaller venues again should be a distinct possibility for NASCAR.

It also might just make NASCAR realize that to spark more fans to go to the track they need to make the whole weekend worthwhile which would mean having qualifying heat races instead of just single car qualifying. This Eldora race could change the course of NASCAR for the better.

Tags: Camping World Truck Series, Clayton Caldwell, Dave Blaney, Eldora Speedway, Ken Schrader, Mark Eddinger, Motorsports, NASCAR, Nationwide Series, Ryan Newman, Scott Bloomquist, Sprint Cup Series, Tony Stewart, Tracy Hines

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