Prior to last summer, none of NASCAR’s top three national touring series had raced on a dirt track since Sept. 30, 1970 in Raleigh, N.C., when Richard Petty won the Home State 200 in what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at the 1-mile State Fairgrounds Speedway.
That all changed in 2013, when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series visited the historic Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, where Austin Dillon won the inaugural 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic.
The Truck Series returns to Eldora Wednesday, with a full day and night of racing. FOX Sports 1 begins its coverage at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday with practice. Then it’s "NASCAR Live" at 11 a.m., followed by the final Happy Hour practice at 11 a.m. Truck Series qualifying coverage begins at 5 p.m., with "NASCAR Race Hub" at 6 p.m., heat races at 7 p.m., "NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Setup" at 8:30 p.m. and the race at 9 p.m.
Eldora Speedway is a half-mile dirt track in Rossburg, Ohio. Rossburg is a tiny hamlet, population 201, as of the 2010 census. The track is roughly midway between Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis. Eldora was opened in 1954 by legendary dirt-track promoter Earl Baltes, now 93 years old. Baltes sold the track to Tony Stewart in 2004.
Over the years, Eldora has hosted USAC, the World of Outlaws, dirt late models and many other race series. The most famous event at Eldora came in June 2001, when Donnie Moran won a $1 million purse in the "Eldora Million" dirt late-model race.
The track record lap here was 12.707 seconds, set by Craig Dollansky in a WoO 410 winged sprint car in April 2002. That equates to a speed of about 141.654 miles per hour, a staggeringly fast speed on dirt.
The 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic will be the 10th of 22 races on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. And, yes, this is an honest-to-goodness points paying race, not an all-star event or an exhibition.
This is where things get interesting. A total of 34 trucks are entered at Eldora – 30 of which will make the race. But how they do it will be very different.
The trucks will have two practices on Wednesday, from 10-11 a.m. ET and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
The traditional two-lap qualifying session takes place Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. After that it gets wild, with five qualifying races starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a last-chance race and a champion’s provisional to determine the 30-truck starting field. The top-20 in owners’ points entering the race event will have a guaranteed starting position.
There will be five qualifying races of 10 laps each, with only green flag laps counting. The top five trucks in qualifying will start on the pole for their respective qualifying races. Five trucks will transfer from each qualifying race.
At the completion of the qualifying races, 25 trucks will have earned spots into the feature.
LAST CHANCE RACE
This will be 15 laps, with only green-flag laps counting. The top-four finishers will transfer to the feature and start in positions 26-29.
Starting position No. 30 will go to the most recent past series champion who has not already qualified. If the 30th starting position is not filled by an eligible champion, it will be assigned to the next highest finishing truck in the last chance race.
The race will be 150 laps divided into three segments. The segments will be 60, 50 and 40 laps. There will be pit stops between each segment, with teams having the opportunity to change tires and work on their trucks.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the trucks need very little in the way of modifications to race on dirt. The front splitters are removed and the trucks will race on treaded Goodyear racing tires. Obviously, the suspension setups will be different to accommodate the dirt surface – more suspension travel being key here – but other than that, the trucks are remarkably similar to what they normally race.
Thirty-four drivers are entered at Eldora. There are three NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars in the field: last year’s winner Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Michael Annett. Interestingly, all three are rookies. Ty Dillon will also compete.
Young guns entered include Erik Jones, 18, who won at Iowa two weeks ago, 16-year-old Gray Gaulding and John Hunter Nemechek, 17.