2007 PRELUDE TO THE DREAM SET BENCHMARK FOR FUTURE EVENTS
Inaugural HBO Pay-Per-View® Telecast, Gordon's Return to Dirt, Montoya's Dirt Debut and Fantastic Finish Made for Memorable Evening at Eldora Speedway
ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 7, 2010) -- Every big sporting event had a signature moment that helped it grow in a way never thought possible.
Joe Namath of the New York Jets guaranteeing victory over the Baltimore Colts prior to Super Bowl III in 1969 -- and then backing it up with a 16-7 win in the Orange Bowl in Miami helped make the Super Bowl one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Michigan State University and Indiana State University squaring off in the 1979 NCAA Men's Basketball championship at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City helped make March one of the best times of the year for sports fans. Earvin "Magic" Johnson (Michigan State) and Larry Bird (Indiana State) helped NBC draw a staggering 24.1 Nielsen rating -- the highest ever for a college basketball game -- and the tournament was never the same again.
For the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream at the legendary Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the defining moment came during the third running of the event on June 6, 2007.
On a beautiful Midwestern summer night, the tiny town of Rossburg, Ohio, became the center of the racing universe thanks to a unique television partnership with HBO Pay-Per-View®. For the first time, the Prelude to the Dream event was going to be telecast live from coast-to-coast to a pay-per-view audience, with the majority of the proceeds raised from the telecast going to support the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C.
NASCAR on FOX broadcasters and production folks donated their time to produce the telecast and helped turn a small charity dirt race into a big-time event.
"Getting the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast up and going and having the NASCAR on FOX crew donate their time really helped take the Prelude to a whole different level," said two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart. "It was such a unique concept and everyone, like they are today, was just happy to be there and were thrilled to donate their time. What amazed me was that you've got Artie Kempner (director) and Pam Miller (producer) and a lot of other folks on the television side that had worked the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Finals and they're producing a charity dirt race in Rossburg, Ohio, without asking for a dime. They just did it because they wanted to be there and make the event something big."
And the storylines coming out of Eldora that evening gave race fans a reason to tune in. Perhaps most intriguing was 1999 CART Series champion, 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner and seven-time Formula One race winner Juan Pablo Montoya making his dirt debut. It was joked about before the event that Montoya could be the first driver in motorsports history to win the Indianapolis 500, the Grand Prix of Monaco and the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora.
But there was no joking when Montoya showed up, took to the dirt right away and proved he could run with the drivers who grew up racing on dirt. While he finished 15th in the 24-car field, he showed everyone, including the track owner, that he was a force to be reckoned with on a surface very unfamiliar to him.
"There was such an electricity about Juan showing up at the Prelude," Stewart said. "Here's this guy who had won the Indianapolis 500 and won at Monaco, but wasn't afraid to give a dirt Late Model a shot and he proved that night why he's one of the best drivers in the world. He took a few laps, asked a few questions and went out and found the fast way around pretty quick."
Montoya wasn't the only driver to bring buzz to west-central Ohio that night, however.
Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon returned to Eldora for the first time in 16 years and picked up right where he left off as an up and coming United States Auto Club (USAC) driver in 1991, the last time he had competed at Eldora.
"I had a blast," Gordon said. "Just getting back on the dirt, going back to Eldora again, never having been in a dirt Late Model -- to me, it was a highlight of 2007. It just brought back a lot of excitement and great memories. When I was getting into (USAC) Sprint Car racing and went to Eldora, that place felt like Daytona. It was just this huge place with cars flying by. Now, after racing in the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup Series doing 200 mph around some of these mile-and-halves, it felt like getting back to a short track.
"What I loved is, my guys on my DuPont team came there for the first time and had never seen me race on dirt, and to see them fired up and going, 'This place is so cool,' was pretty neat for me. I think I kind of surprised them a little bit and to see that reaction was pretty priceless for me."
Gordon didn't disappoint his team or the fans of Eldora as he waged a fierce battle with eventual winner Carl Edwards and runner-up Kyle Busch. Edwards led 28 of the 30 laps in the feature, but Busch and Gordon were side-by-side with him throughout the entire race. Edwards edged Busch by just .305 of a second when the checkered flag flew with Gordon just a car length behind them.
"To be able to go out and race on dirt is just fun," Edwards said. "To be able to run at Eldora is unbelievable. So, to win at Eldora, you know, beating Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart -- guys like that who are at the top of the sport worldwide, and to do it at an event like that and to raise money for charity, I mean that was cool. I still get people that come up to me and say, 'Man, that was an unbelievable race.' Just as much as they talk about any other race I've won that they've seen, they talk about that one."
The 2010 Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream will be presented live on Wednesday June 9 to the entire nation on HBO Pay-Per-View with net proceeds from the telecast supporting four of the nation's top children's hospitals:
* Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis: www.RileyChildrensHospital.com
* Cincinnati Children's: www.CincinnatiChildrens.org
* Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.: www.LevineChildrensHospital.org
* St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.: www.StJude.org
The event is headlined by the Gillette Young Guns: Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Edwards and Joey Logano. All will join Stewart and many others, including fellow Sprint Cup champions Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Bill Elliott. Action sports legends Travis Pastrana and Ricky Carmichael will also participate along with 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan. All will pilot 2,300-pound dirt Late Model stock cars capable of putting out more than 800 horsepower.
Beyond the charity element, this year's Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream is a team event. There will still be an individual race winner, but there will now be a race within the race, with the field broken up into four teams, each representing a children's hospital:
* Team Riley: Bowyer (captain), Ryan Newman, Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace and Ron Capps.
* Team Cincinnati: Kahne (captain), Logano, Stewart, Labonte, Elliott and Cruz Pedregon.
* Team Levine: Busch (captain), Johnson, Kenseth, David Reutimann, Dave Blaney, Marcos Ambrose and Pastrana.
* Team St. Jude: Hamlin (captain), Edwards, Schrader, Aric Almirola, Carmichael, Kanaan and Ray Evernham.
Each hospital will receive a donation, with the payout breakdown as follows:
* Winning team receives 45 percent of net money raised.
* Second-place team receives 25 percent of net money raised.
* Third- and fourth-place teams each receive 15 percent of net money raised.
The lowest team score wins, and only the top-five drivers from each team will be scored. For example, if Team Riley has finishes of first, fourth, seventh, 11th and 18th, respectively, from its top-five drivers, its score will be 41. In the event of a tie, the sixth driver will be scored.
Drivers from all types of disciplines, some with lots of dirt track experience and others with hardly any, will participate in hot laps, qualifying, heat races and a 30-lap feature, all of which will be televised live on HBO Pay-Per-View.
With no points and no pressure, the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream is a throwback race, allowing drivers to step back in time and compete for the reasons they all went racing in the first place -- pride and a trophy. And they'll do it on the same surface that racing legends and past Indianapolis 500 regulars Foyt and Mario Andretti competed on throughout the last 56 years.
The live, commercial-free broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. PDT) with an immediate replay. HBO Pay-Per-View's racing telecast has a suggested retail price of $24.95 and is available to more than 71 million pay-per-view homes. HBO Pay-Per-View is the leading supplier of event programming in the pay-per-view industry. Ordering information and up-to-the minute racing information is available at either www.PreludeToTheDream.org or www.HBO.com.
For those who want to see the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Prelude to the Dream in person, tickets are available by calling the track office (937) 338-3815. Act fast -- the race has sold out in each of its five previous years.