NASCAR: Looking to the future by taking a 43-year step backward to dirt
The last time NASCAR held a Sprint Cup Series race on dirt, Ford had just introduced the Pinto, the Concorde supersonic jetliner made its first flight, the pilot for the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” debuted on CBS, ABC unveiled “Monday Night Football” and president Richard Nixon ordered 1,000 FBI agents to college campuses to suppress anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.
Now the sport hopes by taking a 43-year leap back into its past it can stir up new fans in the future.
The July 24 CarCash Midsummer Classic at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway will put the Camping World Truck Series on an unusual stage. Not only is it a rare mid-week race, it could become one of the most-watched truck series races of all time.
Fans should be naturally curious about 35 trucks racing on a half-mile dirt track, especially since a lot of the series biggest stars have never raced on dirt. For others, it marks a welcomed return to their true roots.
“I grew up racing on dirt, that’s mainly what I know,” said 21-year-old Ty Dillon. “When NASCAR goes to Eldora it gets back to its roots. My two favorite worlds get to collide. I hope we can put on a great race.”
Richard Petty won the last dirt-track race Sept. 30, 1970, at Raleigh, N.C. Thirty of his record 200 wins came on dirt.
Other dirt-track ringers could be Ryan Blaney and his father Dave Blaney. They are avid dirt racers, and both competed regularly at Eldora in the past.
“My dad knows the track better than anybody,” Ryan Blaney said.
Teams already have tested at Eldora and many have concern about the conditions. With so many cars and so much dirt being kicked up, drivers are concerned the track may become too slick.
“That’s going to be very interesting to say the least,” said truck series points leader Matt Crafton. “We tested for the first time last week and we started off really good and then it went really bad. We don’t have a whole lot of dirt experience and there’s a few teams that have put a lot of emphasis on it. We definitely worked on it a lot, but like I said, it’s definitely an unknown without a doubt.
“I think the track is going to go dry, slick without a doubt. There’s no way of getting that away. We have four hours of practice the first day and then we have an hour-and-a-half the second day. There's going to be so many trucks there, unless they dig the track up and start over with it on Wednesday, the day of our race, by the time we roll around to race it will be back to slick.”
The 150-lap race starts at 9:30 p.m. and will be televised on SPEED.