Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tony Stewart's "Prelude to the Dream"

Every year there is a race at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. It is called "The Dream" race. The first year they put it on it paid out a whopping One Million Dollars! A few years ago they began to invite some of the Nascar regulars to come out and run a match race on Thursday the week of the Dream. There are a few drivers that grew up on dirt, and there are a few that still race every week. Guys like Ken Schrader, Bill Elliott, Clint Boyer, Kenny Wallace, and Tony Stewart race in anything they can find an open seat and a steering wheel to sit behind. I have been lucky enough to race with these guys in my days at Talladega Short Track and BIR. Two years ago Tony Stewart bought the famed Eldora Speedway and really pushed the effort to make a special event to raise money for the Victory Junction Camp. Last year they teamed up with HBO cable pay per view to bring it to a national audience. He brought a bunch of his Friends out to put on a show. Last year the man to watch was Juan Pablo Montoya in his first time in a dirt late model. Also "Rowdy" Kyle Busch made his first dirt start. This year Robby Gordon was making his first time in a dirt car. The field also has Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon from the NHRA drag racing series.

Let me tell you a little about these cars. Don't let the name fool you, just because it is dirt doesn't mean it is not FAST. This is a half mile track, they are running around it in about 15.5 seconds. That is around 116 miles an hour. These are very complex chassis with a lot of movable links and components that move and rotate while under power. The chassis cost you about $12,000. That is just the frame. Add an engine..... not just any engine these are high performance all aluminum 800 horsepower monsters. Yes I said 800 hp! They produce close to 500 foot pounds of torque. With a tacky wet clay surface it really gets up and goes. The engine will set you back between $60,000 to $80,000. Yes that is correct. I have seen a guy buy a USED engine for $43,000 before. Add about five or six sets of tires that cost $170 dollars a piece. A bunch of sheet metal and really neat stuff and you are looking at a $100,000-$120,000 racecar. on Dirt. Coming to the track in a hauler identical to the cup guys, with a backup car, extra motor and tons of extra parts. This is not Backyard Bubba taking his primered camarro with a duct tape number on the side and racing his buddies. These regular drivers take decals and make their hot rods look like the normal rides for the cup drivers. Harvick in a red and yellow Shell #29 etc. They will peel those decals off and race them this weekend in the Dream race.

Tony put on his second race tonight, the fourth annual. With a field of drivers that would make an All Star race any where in the world, they are striving to raise a million dollars for the Victory Junction camp. The field was Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, David Ruettiman, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, JJ Yeley, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Red Farmer, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Ray Evrenham, Aric Almerola, Mark Martin, Dave Blaney, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, and Clint Bowyer.
Early crashes in the heat races took out Bill Elliott, Aric, and Mark martin in the first heat, and then the second heat was a one by one wreck off of two. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards all took some paint off of the turn two wall.

The first heat ended up with Dirt regular Clint Bowyer the winner. followed by Harvick
Second heat was Tony Stewart holding a clinic on the field. He was followed by
Third heat was the surprise. ROBBY GORDON in his first ever dirt circle track race.

Two drivers did not make the main event due to repairs not completed. Bill Elliott and Mark Martin did not make the start. The Main Event was Harvick on the Pole with Kenseth to the outside followed by Stewart and Blaney on row two. Green flag dropped and Harvick led the first of thirty laps with Smoke taking the lead on lap two and checking out. Lap three saw Jimmie Johnson got into JJ Yeley and spun him into the wall bringing out the first caution. Caution laps do not count in dirt racing so there was plenty of racing to go. Two grooves made the race interesting, some in the bottom of the track, the others running against the wall where the cushion is and it was bad fast. The cushion is where the dirt builds up in a little ridge to the cars lean on it like a berm and can really move. JJ Yeley spun again on lap seven, with Harvick and Clint Bowyer putting on a show. Sliding in front of each other turn to turn. At one point on lap ten it was FOUR WIDE RACING. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were racing door to door, with Bowyer and Harvick bangin wheels as well. The best thing of the night, the in car cameras were in the car looking back from the steering wheel back toward the driver, so you saw him working the wheel and saw those helmets get covered with dirt and mud. Nine laps in Yeley spun for the third time and brought out the caution. Kasey Kahne who had engine problems all night, finally made his exit at lap 10. Blaney broke the front end on lap 13, and then we got to race a little for a while with a LOT of side by side back and forth racing. Smoke was in a different zip code, walking off and leaving the rest of the field. Lap 19 saw defending champion Carl Edwards leave the race after overheating. Carl won last years race in a car from a local boy. Stacy Holmes of Munford, AL provided the cars for both Carl Edwards and Red Farmer. This was to be Red's final Prelude and Stacy wanted Red to have a good time, and not worry about his own car. After the restart Tony checked out again and looked like noone could catch him. Robby Gordon was the surprise in second, driving a car owned and built by dirt track legend Scott Bloomquist. Tony almost lost it with three to go, with Gordon breathing down his neck, but Tony Stewart won the 2008 Prelude to the Dream. Followed by Robby Gordon, Bowyer,Wallace, Hamlin, Kenseth, Harvick, Johnson, Schrader, Busch, Reuttiman, Newman, Jeff Gordon, Pedregon, Capps, Evernham, Edwards, Almirola, Blaney, Yeley, Kahne, Labonte, and Farmer. Kevin Harvick was named most improved driver, and Robby Gordon won the Juan Montoya first timer award.

The Ohio valley was pummeled with rain last night and this morning. As of 12:30 today, this race was not going to happen. Tony made the call at 1:00 to make it happen. And happen it did. Fans saw a whale of a race and saw Smoke win his Second Prelude. Then they saw a full house, over 23,00 announced in attendance, as well as the pay per view audience. Tony made the presentation of a check for ONE MILLION DOLLARS to the Victory Junction Camp. To help with a second camp that is going to be built in the Kansas City, MO area. Kyle Petty accepted the check and got pretty emotional even giving Tony a kiss on the cheek to show what this meant to him. Tony responded by saying "I always thought Michael Waltrip would be the one to do that." how do you top that? Great night. I know the pay-per0view helps the effort to rais money but I wish this would become a Saturday night prime time race to let the fans really see some great racing. You see guys that are made out to be enemies on Sundays when you watch them on the asphalt, hanging out smiling ear to ear and having a big time. This is what these guys look forward to. A lot of them have bought their own cars and test them during the year for this one race. Tony said that he and Kyle were the only two that he knew of that had not tested for this race. By his performance, you couldn't tell. I think I will go support my local dirt track this weekend, anybody that wants to go with me, come on, lets support real racing, where it all started, and where it all comes back to. ON THE DIRT.