The Mudsummer Classic Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway Wednesday night was everything a race fan loves. It wasn’t the biggest or the fastest, but it showcased the best racing action that NASCAR has to offer.
The event marked NASCAR’s first national series dirt race since 1970. It was filled with side-by-side racing, exciting passes and enough beating and banging to keep the sold-out crowd on their feet. Austin Dillon fought off Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman to win the inaugural race and become the first driver to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race on dirt.
In an attempt to make stock car racing more mainstream and to attract more fans, NASCAR often hides its past like a closely guarded family secret. Historic tracks are left behind in favor of newer venues. The exploits of bootleggers like Raymond Parks and moonshine runners like Junior Johnson are relegated to the shadows.
But NASCAR wasn’t always about corporate sponsors and media savvy drivers. It was built on the backs of blue collar drivers who raced for little more than bragging rights. In fact, the first NASCAR Strictly Stock Series (now Sprint Cup Series) race was held on a ¾ mile dirt track in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The race at Eldora was one of the most highly anticipated events of the current NASCAR season and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights at year’s end. Comments from fans on Twitter and Facebook were rich with superlatives such as “beyond awesome and fantastic” and the general consensus was, “I want more.”
Much like the decision to bring the NCWTS back to the legendary Rockingham Speedway in 2012, this nod to NASCAR’s beginnings should serve as a continued incentive to the powers that be. Change is inevitable, but NASCAR should never forget its roots. This back to basics stripped down version of racing is the heart and soul of a sport that many feel has lost its way.
Thanks to the vision of NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell, track owner Tony Stewart and General Manager/Promoter Roger Slack for listening to the fans and honoring those traditions at Eldora Speedway. It was a night to remember.