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What will be the ultimate impact of NASCAR sanctioning a dirt race?

By admin | July 22, 2013

By Richard Allen

Like many, I was excited months ago when NASCAR announced that its Camping World Truck Series would race on the dirt at the famed Eldora Speedway during the 2013 season. I am an avid dirt racing fan and last year attended over 50 dirt late model races as a reporter for my own website as well as for

And now that the week of the Mudsummer Classic has arrived, I still look forward to seeing the trucks do battle on the Tony Stewart owned half-mile oval located near Rossburg, Ohio.

However, as a dirt racing fan, a certain degree of anxiety has crept into my thinking as the July 24th race date approaches. This will be the first time in over 40 years that NASCAR has sanctioned a dirt race for one of its three top divisions, and therein lies an opportunity to benefit both dirt racing and NASCAR. But lately, I am starting to wonder if this foray from the norm might do as much harm as good to one or both forms of racing.

Make no mistake, the MudSummer Classic has created tremendous buzz for the sport as a whole, and dirt racing in particular. There have been few times when I can remember so many people talking about this form of racing. That is absolutely a good thing. Anytime more eyes can be focused on the product, the better.

On the flip side, however, there is a chance this race could be a disaster. Drivers unaccustomed to racing on dirt could cause so many cautions that the average person watching this form of racing for the first time might come away thinking that attending a “real” dirt race would not be very much fun if they just have caution after caution for spins.

So a concern is that fans might actually be turned off by what they see, when they aren’t even seeing the real product.

But to take a more positive viewpoint, there will be a number of fans watching on Wednesday night that will be exposed to dirt racing for the first time. And they might just like what they see enough to go visit their local track. That would be a very good thing.

There will also be dirt fans who might watch a NASCAR race where normally they would not even consider such. What some may not realize is that there is a real disconnect among many in the dirt racing world toward NASCAR. When discussing this upcoming race with a somewhat prominent figure in dirt late model racing, he said, “We don’t need NASCAR involved in dirt racing in any way.”

That is not an uncommon thought in this form of the sport. Perhaps this brief unification will benefit both. Dirt racing will receive exposure and NASCAR could mend some fences with an alienated fan base.

The ultimate impact of this race on both NASCAR and dirt racing won’t be known for a while. But at least the majority of fans are going into the race with a positive attitude.

In a poll conducted by Fox Sports on their website, 23% of respondents said “I’ve had this date marked on my calendar” regarding the truck race at Eldora while another 42% replied “NASCAR on dirt? Sounds like a winner”. That’s 65% of the total who responded to the poll question that were in favor of this event. Hopefully, the race will live up to everyone’s expectations.

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12 Responses to “What will be the ultimate impact of NASCAR sanctioning a dirt race?”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    July 22nd, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Rich, I do believe it would A. Be A Platform to move Eldora to Nationwide or Knoxville to Trucks and Nationwide. and B. Be a starter for a new series down the road. I feel that it would be fun that Trucks and Nationwide would have better stages.

  2. Bill B Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 5:59 am

    This is exciting like when you were a kid and got a chemistry set. At some point everyone tried mixing all the provided chemicals together to see what might happen. Usually nothing, but there was hope that something interesting (like an explosion) might happen.
    I’ll be watching.

  3. GinaV24 Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I’m hoping it a great show. I can understand your concerns but hopefully they won’t come true. I enjoy going to our local dirt track and watching the cars race. I’ve watched Tony’s charity race for the modified cars on TV only unfortunately and it always looked like it was fun.

    I’ll be watching on TV and keep my fingers crossed that the fun part will make for great racing, too.

  4. Jesse Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 8:12 am

    It’s funning all the dirt big guns are in Toyota’s, even Kenny Wallace could win a race.

  5. Robert Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 8:37 am

    That’s the same risk that happens every week. NASCAR just doesn’t know it. Any given week, you could have potential new fans viewing for the first time. If it sucks that particular week, then those potential new fans are probably lost forever. However, if we could just have a good race every week, all those casual first time viewers could end up lifetime fans. Now how do we get NASCAR to understand this?

  6. Leto Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    I think I agree with your sentiment Rich, if I am understanding you correctly… it’s to approach Eldora with cautious optimism. It’s cool to see NASCAR doing this. But let’s face it, it seems to be nothing more than NASCAR reaching in hopes that some fans that have left or are about to leave stick around. Nothing screams “last resort” move to keep the Trucks from losing further races than running ONE dirt race.

    It’s similar to the Trucks running at Mosport’s road course in a few weeks, too. NASCAR wanted to stick in Canada, so they added a track that is connected to a NASCAR driver. Mosport’s a great track, but there are a number of tracks that could have filled that slot.

    Realistically, if Eldora wasn’t owned by Tony Stewart, what are the odds that it would even have been considered for the schedule? There’s a crap load of dirt tracks out there that, if NASCAR *really* wanted to go to, would probably also be a sell out, just like there’s a lot of asphalt tracks that could get 20,000 to watch Trucks. The difference is that they can’t hype the crap out of Greenville-Pickens, Myrtle Beach, etc like they can “NASCAR GOES BACK TO DIRT!” The trucks are pretty significantly altered for this race, so why not do two? Oh right, you’d then have to split all your hype. No one would care about Eldora as much if suddenly two or three tracks were doing it.

    What I think is the biggest grasping move by NASCAR is that, when they aren’t running a pavement oval, they’re changing qualifying to be similar to how other racing series do it. They’re doing heat races at Eldora, and group qualifying on road courses.

    I just don’t really “get” why they would go back to dirt. How many K&N races are on dirt?

    Not to mention, it’s not like the success of Eldora is at all going to impact whether Nationwide/Cup compete on dirt. No dirt track has the seating capacity to warrant a Cup race, and a Nationwide race is seriously pushing it. The only difference might be that the Trucks might continue running on dirt in the future, even if more asphalt tracks can successfully petition NASCAR to host a Truck race.

    But if tomorrow night is more a wreckfest than anything, I don’t see NASCAR going back if they can fill out the Truck schedule with “better” options. If Gresham, Greenville-Pickens, Darlington, or other tracks can make the Truck schedule 24 or 25 races without Eldora, I don’t think it’s going to be on the schedule for very long.

    It’s all about $ to NASCAR. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are cutting Tony (and Ron Fellows with Mosport) some slack with sanctioning fees and the like. When it become November 2012 and there wasn’t a Truck schedule released for 2013, it started to scream desperation by NASCAR. Eldora hosting a race, and it taking even more time to just get a format for the race announced, just screamed further desperation.

  7. Offkilter Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Hopefully a second groove will work in during the race. If it doesn’t, the casual viewer will not be impressed with dirt. TV just can’t capture the true essence of dirt and what its really like watching it live. The cars look much slower on tv

  8. Jeff Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    This will be cool no matter what, but it’s not like I just showed up for the race and made the field and will cause a bunch of cautions. All these drivers are professionals and it should be a good show.

    @ Robert… want a “good race” every week, huh?…so do I, but in real racing and real sports, sometimes there’s a blowout and it’s not always “good”

    @ Leto…nice diatribe…you only live once….try and relax a bit and enjoy life….though i despise debris cautions and will rant about em to friends, but in general we need to bitch less and enjoy…we only get 1 go around in this here life buddy :)

  9. RacingFan Says:
    July 23rd, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Even though no dirt track has the seating capacity for a dirt race for NW/cup, if Eldora is a big success, they should consider adding it to NW/cup for the television audience. One reason I felt it was a mistake to drop North Wilkesboro and Rockingham, as well as the Southern 500 at Darlington was that they provided great television races. Instead, they added races at tracks that drew probably thousands of new fans at those tracks, but have been losing millions of television fans because of dull racing.
    The deals being made for television rights now show that the big money is there, and (as a secondary consideration) good television races will help get the fans out to a track.

  10. Benjamin P. Glaser Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 8:19 am

    I am hoping this leads to some newer tracks in non-traditional markets and some older markets like Pikes Peak, Evergreen, and Gateway.

  11. DDS Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 10:29 am

    ARCA cars at DuQuoin is all I need. It’s like a double size Martinsville with wider straights. Can’t do a lot of passing in the corners, but a good run off sets up and interesting “two-wide” going in the next one, where most of the passing’s done. Tape delayed ARCA races on NBC Sports Net starting on Thurs. or Fri. night starting Aug. 1st. One of the four is either Springfield or DuQuoin.

  12. Leto Says:
    July 24th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Nice of you to call me out Jeff, even if that wasn’t a diatribe. That was a realistic assessment of the situation.

    Have you seen the practices? A not-insignificant number of drivers had spun in practice, and a bunch more had hit the wall. John Wes Townley’s spun more than your average washing machine, too. So far, for the average fan watching, it’s turning into a disaster with seeing all of these spins.

    This so far is turning into a bigger embarrassment for NASCAR TV-wise than the 2008 Brickyard 400.