Dirt Derby vastly different from other NASCAR fare

Beyond the obvious, the Camping World Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby isn’t your typical NASCAR race.

As activity at the historic high-banked, half-mile oval picked up Tuesday afternoon for a pair of practice sessions, there were additional signs this race is different from anything else NASCAR presents with its three nationals series.

Among them, starting at 3 p.m. spectators trickled into Eldora to set up camping chairs and found spots in the wooden grandstand bleachers. They did so to watch the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series haulers roll into the pits … to park.

Eldora, nestled between cornfields and rolling farmland in northern Darke County, is vastly different compared to NASCAR’s other stops this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both are legendary. But only one takes NASCAR back to its roots.

Eldora hosts the fifth Dirt Derby at 9:30 p,.m. Wednesday. It’s the only national series race (Cup, Xfinity, Camping World) run on dirt, where NASCAR got its start. Here are five things to know for Wednesday’s race:

Kicking asphalt to the curb: There's a saying among dirt fans: "Dirt is for racing. Asphalt is for getting there." Both worlds collide at Eldora.

Though the other 22 NCWTS races are run on pavement, there are still some dirt aces in the Derby. Among them are 2015 Dirt Derby winner Christopher Bell, Eldora fan favorite Rico Abreu, 2016 World 100 late model winner Bobby Pierce and the legendary Ken Schrader. It was once said of Schrader that the first thing he does every morning is eat a spoonful of dirt.

Of the four Dirt Derby winners — Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Bell and Kyle Larson — only Wallace did it without a dirt background. Three of the four winners (Dillon, Wallace and Larson) are currently racing full-time or have made starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Welcome home: NASCAR came back to dirt to honor its roots. Eldora and its charming "where are we?" setting helped the tradition take hold.

Among the dirt track traditions Eldora maintains: the local St. Henry American Legion Post 648 Honor Guard presents the colors. The St. Henry High School marching band performs the national anthem. The beers are still $2 and the concessions (including the track’s famous pizza burger) are equally affordable. And where else will you see a three-time NASCAR Cup champion working the track? Tony Stewart, who bought Eldora from legendary promoter and founder Earl Baltes in 2005, will drive everything from a water truck to a four-wheeler to a Case IH Quadtrac (Google it. It’s worth it).

People-watching is a favorite Eldora pastime. Greenville is 20 minutes away. But it’s not uncommon to hear spectators pine for civilization.

Don't leave early: Two of the races have been settled by less than one second. In 2015, Bell crossed the line ahead of Pierce by 0.761 seconds. A year later, Larson beat Bell by 0.767 seconds. It's pack racing at its best.

Hewitt can do it: Troy's Jack Hewitt, who won 43 races in six different divisions at Eldora, serves as grand marshal. Hewitt's biggest accomplishment at Eldora was winning four features in one night at the prestigious 4-Crown Nationals in 1998.

“I have won a few races here. I’ve had a few crashes here. And I’ve watched a lot of races here,” Hewitt said. “I tell people all the time the best race I see all year long is the Truck Series at Eldora. They look like they are a lot of fun to drive. They are always on top of one another, beating and banging.”

Channel surfing: The race was scheduled to run on Fox Sports 1 but was booted by a U.S. men's national team CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal match.

Pole qualifying now starts on FS1 at 5 p.m. The five qualifying races and last-chance qualifying race start at 7:30 on FS2. And the 150-lap Dirt Derby switches to the Fox Business Network for the 9:30 start.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

What: Eldora Dirt Derby

Where: Eldora Speedway

When: Wednesday

TV schedule: 5 p.m. – Pole qualifying, FS1; 7:30 p.m – Five qualifying races (10 laps), FS2; 8:45 – Last Chance qualifying race (15 laps), FS2; 9:30 – Eldora Dirt Derby (150 laps), Fox Business Network.

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