Truck Series headed back to the dirt

NASCAR will go back to the dirt for the first time since 1970
when the Truck Series visits Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

The July 24 event at the Tony Stewart-owned track in Rossburg
will be a lead-in to the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races
later that weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, believed the Wednesday
night race would attract drivers from all three NASCAR national
levels and maybe even other series.

”Younger drivers and veterans from the World of Outlaws, late
models, USAC drivers that will have an opportunity to land rides
for that race … Wednesday night at that time of the year is
normally a pretty free night,” Stewart said. ”It gives us an
opportunity to get guys in there that don’t normally have that
chance.”

The deal to race at Eldora was announced Wednesday as part of
next season’s 22-race schedule, which will also include the series’
first international stop. The Camping World Truck Series will visit
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario in September. It will be
the first road-course track for the series since 2000, and ensure a
NASCAR national series presence in Canada for a seventh consecutive
season.

”It’s very important that we maintain our national series
presence in Canada,” said NASCAR senior vice president of racing
operations Steve O’Donnell. ”We’ve accomplished that goal while
also bringing a world-class venue like Canadian Tire Motorsport
Park on board. The Canadian fan base is so passionate and has a
high regard for NASCAR.”

The Eldora race has long been rumored, but a deal could not be
put together until safety experts from the University of Nebraska
visited the track Monday to determine if SAFER barriers needed to
be installed. Although it was decided that the track needs some
minor modifications to the inside walls, actual soft walls will not
be installed.

”We are going to be making changes to the exits and entrances
to the pit areas,” Stewart said. ”That’s stuff we already started
looking at. With the university’s help, they’re helping us make
that even better than what we had planned. There will be some
changes structural inside the track, but all for the safety
obviously. I was pretty surprised and pleased of the report that we
got from them.

”We had our heads held up after they left. We felt the few
things they asked us to change really gave us a lot of confidence
that what we have been doing there has been done well.”

The format of the race is undecided, and it could include heat
races.

”We are looking at how races are competed at dirt tracks
historically with heat races or last chance races,” O’Donnell
said. ”As Tony said, we think we’re going to have huge interest,
not only from the series, but young up and coming dirt racers,
veteran dirt racers. We think it will be a pretty compelling
format. It will be a points race on the schedule, but probably some
different variables included in the event.”

Stewart and Austin Dillon participated in an October
compatibility test to determine if the trucks were a fit at Eldora,
and Stewart said Wednesday that rain had made the conditions less
than favorable. But aside from removing the splitter from the
trucks, Stewart said there were no issues.

At the time, Stewart believed it was just a test. But because it
went so well, he quickly determined he had a real shot at landing a
race at his speedway.

”I didn’t actually honestly believe that it was going to gain
the momentum that it had,” he said. ”Obviously, this year when
the discussions came up again, the interest was there, I was
definitely pleased and caught off guard by it for sure. But
definitely at that point, realizing that everyone at NASCAR was
genuinely interested in doing it, it was something we put the full
court press on.”

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