Monster Truckin’ with Tony Stewart

You know folks, after only one week off the road since the NASCAR on FOX portion of the season ended, ol’ DW was already getting cabin fever. I was really looking forward to last week, but never imagined I would have all the fun I had.

I flew up to Ohio on Wednesday afternoon for Tony Stewart’s annual Prelude to the Dream event at Eldora Speedway. You have heard me say it year after year that it’s one of my favorite events to be a part of. This was my fourth year there. I got the pleasure of working with Marty Reid from ESPN for the first time. What a great guy he is. So he, Larry McReynolds and I called all the action.

Probably the highlight of this year’s Prelude for me was the surprise Tony and all his folks had for me. Every year they have me drive something in the pre-race activities. So when I got there Wednesday it was no different. They took me over to a Monster Truck. So I climb up in it and get used to the controls and how everything works. So I got done, jumped down out of it and never really gave it another thought. It was a really cool big, bad blue Monster Truck.

So after qualifying they tell me it’s time for me to come down from the booth and drive the Monster Truck. So I am down there waiting for them to pull my truck around. I hear them start it up, but then off of Turn 4 I see this second Monster Truck coming my way. Now imagine my total shock and surprise when I realize it’s a second Monster Truck and it has my old Tide paint scheme on it.

It was absolutely incredible. My Tide Ride was back and they even had No. 17 on that big ol’ thing. I was so excited to get up in that baby and drive it around the track a couple of times. What an awesome piece of equipment that is. I was intimidated by it. It’s like sitting up on the top of the Empire State Building while trying to drive through downtown New York. I was blown away with the power that thing had and how it drove.

That was the highlight for me. The other highlight was seeing Jimmie Johnson win the Prelude for the first time. He did an incredible job leading every lap of the Prelude. Now I had watched Jimmie before up there but I have to be honest when I say I never was that impressed with how he drove on dirt. Wednesday night, though, Jimmie Johnson was the man.

Now a lot of the credit has to go to Clint Bowyer. He ran second to Jimmie, however Clint owned both cars. His bunch easily had two of the fastest and best prepared cars there. So Clint’s cars finished 1-2. It was a great evening of racing. I simply love going to Eldora and watching the NASCAR boys on dirt. It’s just so different watching them do it and it mesmerizes me every year I am there. It reaffirms to me every year that these guys are the best drivers in the world and they can drive anything.

Thursday I went on up to Michigan to work that weekend for SPEED. Now I hadn’t been back to Michigan in a number of years since the FOX portion of the season was shortened to make room for TNT. Now Friday and Saturday were pretty routine with the practice, qualifying shows plus "Trackside" on SPEED that we did, so things were basically like normal.

Now Sunday was a new experience for me. With Kyle Petty working up in the booth for TNT, SPEED asked me to take Kyle’s spot on their "Raceday" show. Now I have never done "Raceday." I watch it all the time naturally because it’s fun, entertaining and you get a lot of information.

Again, having never done it, I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I just have to say, with John Roberts and Kenny Wallace there, the three of us had a blast. I get fired up when there is a live audience. Other than the Trackside shows, I don’t get to experience that much because I am always up in the booth. So there were the three of us on the set and then we had Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler covering things inside the track.

That show is supposed to inform you about the upcoming race. It’s one of the best shows on television. When you get done with SPEED’s two-hour "Raceday" show, you really are ready for the green flag to fall. Trust me, with all the fans around the stage, it’s like the ultimate tailgate party with all your buddies at a football game. I really enjoyed myself Sunday. I don’t think I ever remember two hours flying by as fast as it did.

I have three more weekends like this on my schedule currently. This weekend I will be at Sonoma and then Daytona and Chicagoland in July. Who knows, if they need me, I might even do more. I just like staying involved.

I always get sad when the NASCAR on FOX portion ends. This lets me stay connected. There really is nothing like being there to experience the thrill of the race, spending time with my racing buddies, the NASCAR officials and so on.

That’s really why I am doing it somewhat different this year. I just really enjoyed this past week.

It doesn’t hurt that we continue to have great racing no matter what series it is. Aric Almirola held off Todd Bodine at Michigan to win the Truck race. I got tickled at Kyle Busch’s post-race quote when he remarked how not only has he not won at Michigan, but not in that No. 51 truck either. Here was Aric doing both.

Saturday night brought us a history-making event at my Old Kentucky Home – Kentucky Speedway. Young Joey Logano sat on his third consecutive pole there and won his third consecutive race there. It was a great race with a lot of action for a great crowd to enjoy.

I hope Kentucky is high on everyone’s list to get a Cup race there in the very near future. Bruton Smith, when he bought the place, said he would get a Cup race there and I know he will. It’s now not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Ol’ DW can’t wait for that day to come.

I appreciate everyone’s support this past week. It sure was a lot of fun. Next stop, it’s the road course in Sonoma. I hope to see you all there.