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Dirt racing ties evident among each of NASCAR’s three champions

By admin | November 21, 2011

By Richard Allen


This past weekend at the Homestead- Miami Speedway in south Florida, NASCAR crowned champions in each of its three major touring divisions. Among those three drivers one common thread was apparent to those who follow multiple forms of auto racing.

Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Camping World Truck Series champion Austin Dillon all have had dirt racing to figure prominently in their careers. And a look at social networking sites Twitter and Facebook immediately after each series concluded its season revealed that the ties to the clay side of the sport were not lost on enthusiasts of that form of racing.

Stewart, who won his third title in NASCAR’s highest division on Sunday, has been closely associated with dirt racing for a number of years. Most prominently, he is the owner of Ohio’s Eldora Speedway which hosts a number of dirt racing’s biggest events.

Dirt late model races such as The Dream and the World 100 play out on the half-mile facility every year. Also, the track hosts the event that perhaps draws the most attention to dirt late model racing when the ‘Prelude to the Dream’ featuring drivers from NASCAR and other forms of racing is run there each June.

And more, Eldora stages the much coveted King’s Royal for winged sprint cars each July as well.

Aside from his ownership of the Eldora facility and other tracks, Stewart is often seen on the competitive side of late model and sprint car events. In 2011, he won a World of Outlaws Sprint Cars race for the first time in his career.

Stenhouse cut his racing teeth driving dirt sprint cars in and around the mid-South region of the country. As a matter of fact, at one time he drove USAC Sprint and Midget Cars for Tony Stewart Racing. In 2007 he was named Rookie of the Year in both the USAC Midget and Sprint Car divisions.

Dillon perhaps does more dirt racing than any other active NASCAR driver. His late model machine was typically seen on just about every off weekend for the truck series over the past year. This season he picked up wins in the Carolina Clash Series at the Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee and a Southern Nationals race at the Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Virginia.

Often times there exists a bit of a rift between NASCAR and the dirt racing world. But this season, these three drivers bridged that gap in a major way as a number dirt racing fans and competitors paid a bit more attention to NASCAR than they might have normally to keep tabs on those who have ties to their favorite form of racing. And likewise can be said of NASCAR participants and fans paying a bit more attention to dirt racing due to the attention each of these drivers brought to that form of racing.

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5 Responses to “Dirt racing ties evident among each of NASCAR’s three champions”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 4:50 am

    There are a lot more than these 3 that have dirt background with a way lot more accomplishments than Dillan and stenhouse.

  2. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Rich, I feel Short Track USA needs more respect than it deserves and I know that truthfully, Austin Dillon is the 1st Active College Student to be NASCAR Champion and I wish the fact is that NASCAR could reexplore its Dirt Roots in its future. Also, Dillon and Stenhouse are the first set of different drivers to be Rookie of the Year and National Champ in Successive Years.

  3. AndrewFromTN Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Sprint Cup runner up Carl Edwards also has a dirt racing background, too.

  4. Jon Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Jeff Gordon came up from USAC as well, IIRC.

  5. Paul Says:
    November 23rd, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Hey goofballs: Rich wasn’t listing those three as the only guys to drive dirt. just the ones that earned a championship trophy. I’m sure there was probably a hot dog vendor somewhere at Homestead thats wiped clay off his face before. That wasn’t the point of the article so thats why Mr hotdog wasn’t also listed by Rich.