Skip to content

Dirt, NASCAR, Eldora are big winners after Mudsummer Classic

Jul 25, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT

The CarCash Mudsummer Classic Getty Images

Occasionally, you just need to tip your cap to someone on a job well done.

In this case, a tip of the cap to two parties: NASCAR, for taking a chance on a dirt track race for the first time in 40 years, and to Eldora Speedway, its track president Roger Slack and track owner Tony Stewart.

It looked weird at first glance – the sight of these lumbering, overpowered and under-tired NASCAR Camping World Trucks attempting to “slide job” and ride loose around the top groove of the half-mile oval in Rossburg, Ohio.

But after just a few minutes and few laps, it looked massive, and it looked like a spectacle.

From the sold-out crowd, to the heat race format, to Norm Benning making the feature race after holding on in his last-chance qualifier, to the four-wide tribute start and salute to the fans, to the race itself. It looked like authentic racing without appearing contrived. It wasn’t a crash fest; it was fairly clean. It was three hours of racing action, but it was never three hours of tedium.

In fact, the only disappointment was that it seemed every time the leaders were approaching traffic, a caution flew for debris. Now in all cases, the big pieces of debris were shown, so you can put the “phantom debris caution” theory to rest on this occasion.

Kyle Larson drove the wheels off his truck but race winner Austin Dillon came through the field just as much, in fact more so than the widely accepted wunderkind who has been hailed by many as NASCAR’s next big thing.

The immediate cries on social media and in some reports was for “MORE DIRT RACING!” or something along those lines.

The challenge for NASCAR, and perhaps for other domestic forms of motorsport, is not to lose the unique nature of this first, one-off dirt track NASCAR experience.

Some of racing’s most iconic races are that way because they’re sparse. Because they’re unique. Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans are iconic; Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland are not.

Over-saturation of a certain kind of racing – the preponderance of 400-mile snooze fests on 1.5-mile ovals as an example – pretty much reduces those races to also-ran, can-miss status because there’s no differentiating one from another.

NASCAR’s most exciting races have tended to occur on slower tracks visited infrequently. Bristol and Martinsville, the two half-mile tracks, are among the most fun to watch, as are the two road course races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Eldora fits this bill to a T.

For NASCAR, perhaps one or two more dirt track races in a year could go a long way toward building up enough sustained season-long interest in dirt, but not overdoing it.

The easiest way to get “MORE DIRT RACING” from here is to simply visit your local short track and see the action there. They need the support.

But as for last night, it was an excellent dirt-digging, groundbreaking ceremony for a form of racing that seeks to make a resurgence in the minds and wallets of race fans.

Here’s a few extra takes on the race from AP/Dan Gelston, USA Today’s Jeff Gluck and Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass.

And here are tweets from Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.

Latest Posts
  1. IndyCar Driver Review: Sebastian Saavedra

    Oct 2, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT

    Sebastian Saavedra AP

    Sebastian Saavedra ends last among full-time IndyCar drivers for the second year in a row.

  2. Verstappen set to make F1 history in Japanese GP practice just three days after turning 17

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Previews Getty Images

    He can’t drive a road car on his own at home in the Netherlands, but Max Verstappen will be driving a Toro Rosso in FP1 at Suzuka on Friday.

  3. IndyCar Driver Review: Carlos Huertas

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Grand Prix of Indianapolis Getty Images

    Carlos Huertas ends P20 in his first IndyCar season, with that freaky Houston win.

  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Knight Rider? (VIDEO)

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:06 AM EDT

    AAA 400 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. plays Knight Rider in “Funny or Die” video.

  5. As Alonso nears the Ferrari exit, Bianchi awaits his chance

    Oct 2, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    F1 Testing At Silverstone - Day Two Getty Images

    The Marussia driver could be in line to replace Alonso at Ferrari if the Spaniard is released one year early.

  6. Typhoon set to hit Japan on Sunday, putting GP schedule at risk

    Oct 2, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    © UBIMET © UBIMET

    Category four typhoon could force the race to be held on Saturday instead of Sunday.

  7. 2014 Japanese Grand Prix Preview

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Previews Getty Images

    Umbrellas at the ready! This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix is going to be a rainy one.

  8. IMSA: Titles on the line at Petit Le Mans

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Joao Barbosa AP

    Titles on the line at the TUDOR Championship finale in Atlanta.

  9. IndyCar Driver Review: Graham Rahal

    Oct 2, 2014, 12:05 AM EDT

    NTT DATA Qualifying Day - Firestone 600 Getty Images

    Graham Rahal ends P19 after a tough season, but he was better than the stats would indicate.

  10. Merhi, Stevens get Suzuka FP1 outings with Caterham, Marussia

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying Getty Images

    Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens to run in FP1 at Suzuka.

  11. IndyCar Driver Review: Takuma Sato

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT

    SatoPost Getty Images

    Results and statistics don’t tell the tale for Takuma Sato’s hard-luck 2014 IndyCar season.

  12. IndyCar Driver Review: Jack Hawksworth

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    HawkTOR AP

    Jack Hawksworth overachieved in his first Verizon IndyCar Series season.

  13. NASCAR AMERICA: Edwards and Kahne on rest of Chase format (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 At The Glen - Practice Getty Images

    Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne check in on the Contender round of the new Chase format.

  14. NASCAR AMERICA: Jimmie Johnson on “flying under the radar” (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Jimmie Johnson not a fan of the “under the radar” terminology.

  15. NASCAR Truck penalty for No. 20 team upheld

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    nascarlogo

    A P2 penalty issued to No. 20 NASCAR Truck team upheld after appeal.

  16. Caterham denies future is at risk despite goods being seized

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Caterham Getty Images

    Bailiffs seize goods at Leafield, but Caterham issues a statement saying that it is business as usual.

  17. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — All 12 drivers in Chase Contenders Round

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    141001-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America goes in-depth with all 12 drivers in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, also known as the Contenders Round.

  18. Report: Australian-owned team, driver and sponsor to debut in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    NCWTS logo

    While Marcos Ambrose is returning to his native Australia after this season, a new Australian-owned team is set to make its debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, complete with an Australian-born driver and Aussie primary sponsor.

  19. Bill Elliott makes awesome $4.2 million real estate deal

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Bill Elliott figured real estate would be a good investment many years ago, and did that belief ever pay off for the soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer.

  20. Ryan Villopoto leaving American motocross, will race MXGP series for ‘final year of racing’

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com

    Kawasaki officially announced that reigning supercross champion Ryan Villopoto will head to Europe next year to race the MXGP series. Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn will replace him on the American Monster Energy Kawasaki team.

Video from NASCAR America

Drivers discuss new Chase format
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1597)
  2. K. Harvick (1493)
  3. K. Busch (1353)
  4. J. Coulter (1212)
  5. R. Blaney (1164)