Eldora to host first NASCAR dirt race since 1970

NASCAR wasn’t the only group who wanted the dirt.

After it was announced Wednesday the Camping World Truck Series would race at Eldora Speedway in 2013 — the first appearance on dirt for the series’ top three divisions since 1970 — track owner Tony Stewart’s phone lit up from friends and fellow drivers wanting to talk about the historic event dubbed the Mudsummer Classic.

“It has been one of the hardest things to not talk about in my entire professional racing career,” said Stewart, who was peppered with questions about the event once word leaked.

The Mudsummer Classic runs on Wednesday, July 24, and leads into NASCAR’s visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that weekend. With Sprint Cup and Nationwide drivers nearby, Eldora is optimistic about a high-profile field. NASCAR earlier announced the Truck Series will lower the driving age to 16 for road courses and tracks of less than 1.1 miles. Many of NASCAR’s top drivers already have experience at Eldora competing in late models at the Prelude to the Dream. As for Stewart, he said he wants to race but added his obligation as track owner to make sure it’s a successful event comes first.

Race details such as the length and whether pit stops will be made, which Stewart said can be done, or if there will be a break halfway through the race are still in discussion. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Senior VP of Racing Operations, said the race might embrace dirt track traditions of heat races and last-chance features.

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Officials from the University of Nebraska — experts on roadside safety — visited Eldora on Monday and said SAFER barriers were not needed. That accelerated discussions with NASCAR to include Eldora on the schedule. They came to an agreement Wednesday morning. Changes, though, will be made to the entrances and exits to the pit area.

“There will be some structural changes inside the track, but all for the safety obviously,” Stewart said. “I was pretty surprised and pleased of the report 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.”

As for the trucks, Stewart said the only major change will be removing the splitters from the front so they don’t dig into the half-mile, high-banked track.

Eldora has permanent seating for 16,000 and 20,000 with lawn and patio seating added. Depending on tickets sales additional seats can be added in turns one and two.

“I think it’s going to be a great day,” Stewart said. “I think it’s going to be a very historic day for NASCAR and definitely for Eldora Speedway.”

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