NASCAR recently announced that it will go back to racing on dirt for the first time since 1970 when the truck series was at the Eldorado Speedway in Ohio.
The event will take place on July 24 at the Tony Stewart-owned track in Rossburg, Ohio, and will be the transitioning event into the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races that will be held later that weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
According to Stewart, who is a three-time NASCAR champion, the Wednesday night race should attract drivers from all three levels of the motorsport and possibly other series. He added that younger drivers and veterans will have the chance to qualify for rides in the race, giving racers who don't normally have a chance to get on the track the opportunity to showcase their skills.
Next season will feature a 22-race schedule that will include the Eldora race and the series' first international stop.
“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.”
Safety experts from the University of Nebraska visited the track recently and that was the final step to determining if barriers needed to be installed. The race had long been rumored, but the safety of the drivers was the main concern. Experts decided that the track may need some minor fixes to the inside walls, but actual soft walls would 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."
Stewart had previously participated in an October compatibility test to make sure the trucks were a fit at Eldora, and Stewart reported that rain made the conditions less than favorable, but believes the track has no major issues.
Stewart thought it was just a test at the time, but decided that he had a chance at landing a race at his speedway considering how well the test run went.
NASCAR has not yet decided on the format of the race, but it could include heat races, looking for ways to better entertain motorsport fans.
“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.”
With the motorsport being back on dirt, more NASCAR fans might be attracted to the races next year. NASCAR Chairman Brian France recently announced that he wanted to look into ways to keep fans of the motorsport interested, possibly having tighter races and better ending performances in the race to the checkered flag.