ROSSBURG — Tony Stewart made a pitch for NASCAR to bring its Sprint Cup and Nationwide series to Eldora Speedway prior to Wednesday’s Mudsummer Classic NASCAR truck race at the half-mile dirt track.
Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion and owner of Eldora Speedway, said he wants the NASCAR truck series to continue racing in Rossburg although NASCAR has not committed yet to returning. But he doesn’t want to stop there as he also would like NASCAR to bring its other top series to his dirt track.
“We hope we continue to have this event every year,” Stewart said. “I’m going to throw it out there … I would love for the truck series to not be the only NASCAR series that comes here. If this continues to go as well as we hope it does, there’s no reason that the other two divisions couldn’t possibly come in the future. That’s not what we’re planning for, but we’re very open-minded.”
The second annual Mudsummer Classic drew fans from 45 states, the United States Virgin Islands, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden and Australia to Rossburg and was nationally televised on FOX Sports 1. The Mudsummer Classic is NASCAR’s only dirt race in any of its top three series, and last year became NASCAR’s first dirt race since Sept. 30, 1970, at State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“It’s cool to see how many people show up here even on a weeknight to this race,” truck series leader Ryan Blaney said. “It really shows how much it means to them and how much this racetrack means to this part of the state.”
Eldora General Manger Roger Slack said fans have been impressed by the atmosphere and experience of Eldora. Of the 4,400 new accounts opened for the 2013 Mudsummer Classic, only 138 haven’t bought tickets to return to Eldora, he said.
“It’s not the same atmosphere of a weekly NASCAR race,” Stewart said. “It’s just a different atmosphere here.”
And it’s not only the fans who’ve enjoyed the race at Eldora. Drivers such as 2013 Mudsummer Classic winner Austin Dillon said the Mudsummer Classic is the most fun NASCAR race of the season for him.
“It feels great to be back at Eldora,” he said. “I’m happy we’ve come back here. I’m sure all the fans are happy, too. It was such a good race last year. I enjoyed it so I’m glad to be back out here running laps.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Stewart hadn’t talked to NASCAR about bringing either Sprint Cup or Nationwide racing to Eldora. However, he hoped the spotlight on Eldora could help spread his message.
“I haven’t yet,” Stewart said to a reporter about speaking to NASCAR officials. “That’s why I just threw you the bone and let you plant the seed for me.”
Stewart praised his Eldora staff and talked up the advantages of racing on dirt such as the ability to alter the driving surface by adding or removing dirt and adding varying amounts of water to the track.
“We have the ability to do something here that none of the other NASCAR tracks have the ability to do – we can change our racetrack,” he said.
Stewart also talked about flexibility in scheduling and offered to host races any day of the week.
“I can run on whatever night they want to run on; they can pick,” he said. “We’ll run on whatever night they choose. I think we can make it work. If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup cars, the Nationwide cars, aren’t a big stretch from that. It’s definitely feasible to do that. It’s just a matter of is that something they want to do. We’re very appreciative and very content if we only run truck races from here on out. If we get the privilege to keep hosting truck races, we’re very happy doing that.”