Prelude to the Dream pre-event quotes

ROSSBURG, Ohio (May 28, 2009) -- As the sun sets over the cornfields of central Ohio on Wednesday, June 3, 26 of the best drivers in the country will meet at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg for the fifth annual Prelude to the Dream. There is no...

ROSSBURG, Ohio (May 28, 2009) -- As the sun sets over the cornfields of central Ohio on Wednesday, June 3, 26 of the best drivers in the country will meet at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg for the fifth annual Prelude to the Dream.

There is no prize money, no points, no sponsor obligations -- just 26 drivers in dirt Late Model stock cars going for a trophy and bragging rights among their peers. All drivers want the trophy, but for 25 of them, if they can't win, they want to beat Eldora's owner, Tony Stewart, a two-time Prelude to the Dream winner.

It's Stewart's house. He bought it in 2004 and has won at Eldora in about every type of car. So the 25 drivers he has invited, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch, would like nothing more than to beat Stewart in his own backyard.

The following are quotes from selected drivers competing in the fifth annual Prelude to the Dream. The event, which will give the winner bragging rights for a year, will take place at 7 p.m. EDT on June 3 at Eldora Speedway and will be broadcast live on HBO Pay-Per-View?.

For those who want to see the Prelude to the Dream in-person, tickets are available online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com or by calling the track office (937) 338-3815. Act soon -- the race has sold out in each of its four previous years and only a few hundred general admission tickets remain.

The live, commercial-free broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. PDT), followed by 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 www.hbo.com.

TONY STEWART (Two-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and Two-Time Prelude Winner; Owner of Eldora Speedway):

How unique is it for 26 of the top drivers in the country to race at a half-mile dirt track in the middle of Ohio cornfields?

"It's unreal. I guess it would be like Tiger Woods taking all of his buddies and going to play the local putt-putt course, or Michael Jordan taking all of his friends to the playground and shooting hoops. These guys all converge on this track and it's fun, and it gets us back to our roots -- why we got into racing to begin with. There are no points, no prize money. Guys pay their own way to get there and it's for a worthwhile cause -- the injured and fallen soldiers and their families."

Why is racing on dirt so much fun for you guys?

"I think what's fun, or challenging, about dirt is that the surface is never the same. When we go to Charlotte or Daytona or Talladega, the conditions are pretty much the same every time, as far as the surface goes. Dirt tracks are always different from the last time you were there. So, for the guys who are preparing the cars and doing the setups on them, they kind of have to guess ahead and try to plan for what they think the track is going to do. The drivers have to plan accordingly, too, and they have to make adjustments while they're out on the track because the conditions are constantly changing. That's what's so fun about dirt -- it's never the same twice."

Why should someone order the Fifth Annual Prelude to the Dream and watch it on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"The Prelude to the Dream is a race that we hold prior to 'Dream Weekend,' which is one of our biggest weekends at Eldora Speedway. Professional dirt Late Model racers from across the country are racing for $100,000 to win. The Prelude to the Dream is on the Wednesday before, and it's a race that myself and 25 drivers from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NHRA compete in for bragging rights, but also to raise money for charity. It's a fun atmosphere for the drivers, crews, fans and the people watching at home on HBO Pay-Per-View. Most of these guys don't race on dirt very often, so it's a chance for a lot of us to go back to our roots and have a great time. The viewers at home get to see us much differently than they would on a normal race weekend. There are no points, no pressure, just a lot of fun. This year, we're helping out injured and fallen soldiers by raising money from the Prelude to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, Intrepid Heroes Fund, Operation Homefront and Fisher House. The men and women in our armed forces fight for our freedom to make sure we can continue to have fun at events like the Prelude, and everyone who tunes in and buys the event on HBO Pay-Per-View will be helping our troops all over the world."

When you guys go to Eldora, the routine is totally different from a normal race weekend. Is that part of the challenge, or the fun for you guys, getting adjusted to the dirt and getting away from your normal routine?

"Yeah, I think if we could get an hour of practice like we do at a (Sprint) Cup race, most of these guys would really pick this up really quick -- and they do, anyway. But they have to do it in probably a total of 10 to 12 laps, and that's something they're not used to having to do. I mean, they're used to being able to have a lot of practice time, where on dirt tracks, you just can't spend that much track time without it affecting the racetrack. So, where you used to have two warm-up sessions for the race at a Cup event, now, all of a sudden, you get two five- or six-lap sessions to get ready to go qualify right away, and that's not a lot of time for a professional driver to try to figure out a different racecar and a different racetrack and surface."

How gratifying is it for you to see all the drivers come together to help you with such a great cause?

"That is the best part of it. To me, that is the biggest compliment -- that they are willing to take a day out of their schedule. You know, our schedules get more and more hectic every year. So, to give a full day out of your schedule, that's giving a lot. And, for these guys to all do this once a year and come to our facility and race at a place I am very passionate about is something that is very humbling, but at the same time it shows their passion and compassion for charities and the fact that they work very hard to give back to communities."

Robby Gordon finished second last year in his first-ever race in a dirt Late Model. How surprising was that to you?

"I had told Robby for three years before he actually came to the Prelude -- I said, 'You will be perfect in these cars.' I've always said that he was one of the most naturally talented drivers that we had ever raced with, as far as car control. I mean, he got in the car and it took him about two laps to figure it out. He had one of the best in the business with Scott Bloomquist as his car owner. But, it gave him a good car where he could learn that much faster and, with a guy who is a great driver, great engineer, and chassis builder. But Robby, I mean, it took him about five laps and it looked like he grew up racing on dirt tracks. He kind of did, to a certain degree, in off-road trucks. But Eldora and a dirt Late Model are a lot different than a Trophy Truck is. So, seeing him out there, it was like, 'I told you, you were going to be good.' It was just fun to watch him learn and how quickly he took to the dirt."

Why did you decide to change your mission for the event, as far as who it benefits?

"The first four years, we've always worked with the Victory Junction Gang Camp and donated the proceeds to it. This year, we just wanted to do something different and we kind of came up with the idea. Maybe next year, we will change it a little bit and pick a different charity each season. So, when the U.S. Army came on board with Ryan Newman's (Sprint) Cup car with Stewart-Haas Racing, it was a partner that you didn't look at as a sponsor, but you looked at as a partner. To realize how many millions of fans we gained because the U.S. Army is on one of our cars, it was like, how can we do something to give back and do something to support our military? When we sat down and tried to figure out who we would donate to this year, it was a no-brainer. We all picked the same thing on the list. It just made it a natural force. It just made a lot of sense. We've been on a run here where our military has been really active and very busy. I don't think people really realize how much support not necessarily our friends in the military, but their families, also need. It made it very worthwhile and made it make sense to us."

What does an event like this mean to the military and families that benefit from it?

"The thing about soldiers in the military is they are some of the toughest people I have ever met. There are people who have lost arms and legs and all they want to do is get healed up and get back to service. All they want to do is serve their country. If nothing else, we as civilians can support the soldiers and the men and women we have who are fighting for us and making sure that we have a nation like we have."

JIMMIE JOHNSON (Three-Time and Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion):

What's so special about racing on the dirt at a place like Eldora?

"I grew up racing on the dirt, but not in cars like we race at Eldora or on a track like that. Everything I did was on a straight line, going over jumps, bumps, hillsides and through river beds and stuff like that. So, the whole experience at Eldora last year was really a special one to me and I got to feel the horsepower, grip, track conditions and the banking on a high-banked dirt track. It was quite an experience last year and I love just being in different environments and challenging myself. On top of that, coming out and supporting Tony. Tony's done a phenomenal job starting this foundation. He's been very helpful with the tasks that my wife and I have for our foundation and we just like to help him out, as well, with his causes. So, all in all, it's a great time. It's a fast format. I mean, you show up, you get two or three laps of practice, you're qualifying and then you're racing. So, this year coming back, I will have a little more experience and be more competitive."

What were your first impressions of Eldora last year?

"I remember the fact that we had rain throughout the day and that Tony had been out on the track for a day or two trying to get the track in good condition because of the weather issue we had. But, you look at it and we're kind of used to seeing banking. So, when I first looked at it, I thought 'You know, that's not that steep. It's okay.' But, when I got in the car and found out that you can literally run flat-foot around this dirt half-mile racetrack, that was quite impressive to me."

Can you compare running a Sprint Cup car and a dirt Late Model?

"The two styles of racing are different for a lot of reasons. You don't have a spotter and I got in trouble. I got on the outside of Ron Capps and expected him to leave me the lane because I'm used to racing with spotters and, of course, he didn't know I was there and came up and we got sandwiched together. But, at the end of the day, when you get into the cars, the same principles apply if you're on dirt or asphalt, regardless of the car. If you could slow it all down and really be precise with what you do and save tenths of a second around the track, you're going be the fastest guy. Showing up new to it, I was pretty violent with the car and, once the track slicked off, I was probably using too much brake. Threw the car into the corner too hard and took a little while to figure out how to use the cushion. I'm not used to running on a cushion, period, even with the off-road racing I did. It was nothing that we ever really worried about."

How fulfilling is it for you to be a part of raising awareness for injured and fallen soldiers?

"I'm very honored to be a part of it. Through my years of racing for Lowe's, we've done a lot together to give back to the troops. It's amazing. It feels so good to thank our troops in some way, shape or form, so I understand where Tony is going with it and certainly support him. Hopefully, we can show them that we appreciate what they do to keep our country free and out of harm's way."

Why should fans watch on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"Well, I think dirt-car racing is one of the best forms of racing to watch and you also get to see us out of our element. That works in a couple of ways. One, in the cars, there might be some good bloopers to check out. Two, we don't have the corporate pressure of a race. We're just there having fun and I think that really comes through."

JEFF GORDON (Four-Time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and Brickyard 400 winner; Three-time Daytona 500 winner):

When you mention the words Eldora Speedway, it just conjures up so many great images for so many people. Why is it so special to you?

"I grew up watching Sprint cars, then racing Sprint cars and Midgets. Everybody will tell you it's the ultimate dirt track and I will never forget going there for the first time and driving in there going, 'Oh my gosh.' I mean, it was just big, it looked fast and it was fast. It's just an awesome, awesome dirt track and an intimidating dirt track and right in the middle of corn fields in Ohio. Some of the best race fans around the country all flock to Eldora."

What makes this event so special and so big for drivers that they want to have the invite, they want to go and they want to experience the Prelude to the Dream?

"You know, it's different for everybody. Some guys maybe dreamed of racing on the dirt and never got the opportunity to, and so it is just fun and a cool new experience. For me, it is about getting back on dirt, something that I grew up with and got me to this level. It's an opportunity for me to go back and have a bunch of fun."

Are bragging rights on the line at the Prelude to the Dream?

"I will say, after the first year a lot of people were like, 'Man I was impressed with that,' and I took a lot of pride in that. Not that many people saw me race on dirt and so, to go out there and have your fellow (Sprint) Cup drivers say, 'Man, I didn't know you could drive like that on dirt,' that was very cool for me. And even though I didn't win it, I still had some bragging rights, and Carl (Edwards) had bragging rights, and now Tony, of course, he's got the bragging rights. I think we are going to add some extra weight to him so we can make it even."

You and your former crew chief, Ray Evernham, have a fun rivalry by racing each other at the Prelude. Is there any wager on who finishes higher?

"It's just all pride. If I don't finish in front of him, then I am not going to be able to hold up my head very high the next time I see him. No offense to Ray, he's impressed me, but with my dirt experience and being a (Sprint) Cup driver, I should be able to beat Ray Evernham on dirt."

How fulfilling is it for you to be a part of raising awareness for injured and fallen soldiers?

"I think it's fantastic. Obviously, with the Jeff Gordon Foundation, we focus a lot on kids. I know that Tony's foundation does, as well. With everything that is going on with the economy, with the war and especially for me with my involvement with the National Guard, I have already been to Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) once this year. I plan on going a few more times and really getting a chance to meet the true heroes. To be able to recognize them, to be able to benefit them, especially those who aren't with us anymore, I think that's just an awesome thing that we can do and I will be very proud to be representing that on that day in June in Eldora."

Why should fans watch on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"I think there are so many reasons why you want to watch this event, whether you are there or at home. You don't want to miss it, that's for sure, because you see drivers in a totally different, relaxed atmosphere. They are having fun, yet are still competitive. You see them throwing around an awesome car -- these dirt Late Models are amazing cars -- on the most incredible dirt track in the country at Eldora, and it's going to benefit these fallen heroes and different charities. You just can't have more fun and more excitement and have a better race and do it for a great cause than the Prelude. It's the ultimate."

CARL EDWARDS (2007 Prelude to the Dream Winner; 2007 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion):

What did you think when you first saw Eldora Speedway?

"I just remember walking in the place through that little tunnel under the back straightaway. I just had my helmet bag and I was standing there looking at the back straightaway in turns three and four. It was just cool to be there -- to see it, finally. I'd heard about it, seen pictures in old open-wheel magazines and stuff. But to be at Eldora, to race there, that's cool."

What did your victory in the 2007 Prelude to the Dream mean to you?

"It's big. My win at that race a couple of years ago is still, to this day, people come up and they're like, 'Yeah, yeah, it's great, NASCAR and everything, but you won Eldora!' You know, they're pumped about it, so that was a big win for me."

Can you describe the atmosphere and what makes this event so special?

"To me, there are two things that make this special. Number one, it's Eldora. I mean, growing up in Missouri, Eldora was just far enough away that I never went, but I always heard about it. To race there is cool. Just as special is the fact that the money raised goes to a good cause. All the fans see you in the grandstands. The cars are lined up for miles down the road. You know that everyone is there, knowing that they're participating in something bigger than any one of us. That's cool."

How important, or how much more special is it, that you are going to be in this event knowing that the mission has changed this year?

"One of the greatest parts about doing this -- for all of us, me, the fans, the other drivers -- is that we are doing something for a good cause and to know that this money is going to go to help our soldiers who have been out there, some of them for years, protecting our freedom and sacrificing. That's pretty cool."

Why should fans watch on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"If you are a dirt fan, you know exactly why to tune in. And if you're not a dirt fan, just tune in once and you will know why we all started racing."

KYLE BUSCH (15 wins in Sprint Cup; 24 wins in Nationwide Series; 11 wins in Camping World Truck Series):

When you hear the word "Eldora," what do you think about?

"When you think of Eldora, you think of a high-banked, fast, dirt half-mile racetrack. You also think about all the fans who surround the place. They are just -- they're packed -- jam-packed into the place. The grandstands are full, the outside of turns three and four are full. The only thing Stewart has left to do is fill the back straightaway with a big Bruton Smith grandstand or something."

Every driver wants to win, but if they can't win, they don't care where they finish as long as they finish ahead of Tony. Is that the theme for you too?

"No. For me, I accomplished my goal the first year and that was to wreck him. (Laughs) I wrecked him the first year. The second year, I tried to either keep up with him or wreck him again, and I couldn't do either. So, I failed miserably the second year. The third year, hopefully we will keep up with him and we can beat him."

What did you think in 2007 when you came to Eldora to race in the Prelude to the Dream for the first time?

"Dude, it was serious. When I pulled in the first time, I was like, 'Man, what are these people doing here?' There really is no place to stay at around there. You are just out in a bunch of cornfields. So, the cool part about it is that the fans camp out and they don't care if it's raining, pouring, snowing, sleeting, whatever -- they are going to be there to watch some dirt Late Model racing."

Can you describe the atmosphere and what makes this event so special?

"It sort of takes us back to our roots. It takes us back to our local Saturday-night short track. We are able to hang out in the pits and mix and mingle with each other and the show moves along -- it keeps going. It's just a neat atmosphere. You are just there having a good time. You are, like, what you were in the local short-track days and it brings back sweet memories."

How fulfilling is it for you to be a part of raising awareness for injured and fallen soldiers?

"This year, it is going to be special because of the fact that we are helping the injured soldiers and their families and that is fun to do because we have such a spot for them in our hearts for everything that they do. Everybody should. They do so much work and try to fight and give us our freedom that it is just a little something to give back and to raise money for their benefit. I think it's something that is pretty cool. We get to have a good time and enjoy it, doing what we love to do and, yet, we are doing it for a good cause. So, whether it is the Victory Junction Gang, whether it is for the Kyle Busch Foundation or the military, injured soldiers of the military, you know, it is all a part of doing something that feels good."

RYAN NEWMAN (2008 Daytona 500 Winner; 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Victories ):

Can you explain to the average race fan why you guys have such a passion for dirt racing?

"I grew up dirt racing -- not as much as Tony did, but I grew up dirt racing. My first Midget win ever was on dirt up in northern Michigan. To me, short-track racing is typically dirt racing and that is where so many people grew up and got interested in racing. That is all there was, back in the day, was dirt tracks."

Why is Eldora so special?

"I think Eldora is special because the effort that Earl (Baltes, former owner) put into it, making the special races, the big races, the fact that it is the fastest half-mile dirt track in the United States, the high banks. It's just amazing, the excitement, the speed, the raw energy that comes out of that racetrack. And then, what Tony has done to expand it and, obviously, all the great races are there, the World 100, the big (World of) Outlaw shows, the Big One, and the Kings Royal. Big dirt racing happens at Eldora."

Being sponsored by the U.S. Army in the Sprint Cup Series, how important is the event for you, considering it supports injured and fallen soldiers?

"It's definitely special. This is my first year with the U.S. Army on my chest and to know that there are a million soldiers out there fighting for our freedom and to have recognition for the ones who have been injured, it is really special. It's great what Tony is doing with the race and what he is trying to make of the whole event and how he respects what those heroes are doing for our country."

How big of an impact will this event be on the families and soldiers?

"We are just trying to make an impact and it is our way of giving back. Luckily, we get to do something that we love to give back to those people. Those are our heroes. Those are the people who sacrifice a lot of things to put themselves in position to fight for our freedom. It is an honor for me to do something to try to help them out. It is small on my part, but it can make a really big difference."

Why should fans watch on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"Anybody out there who enjoys NASCAR, who enjoys the IRL, we are taking it back to where we all started with big-name drivers at a great racetrack and you should check it out. It's a blast. As drivers, we sit in the coach lot and we watch re-runs of the race. We will make an effort to watch the re-runs of our race at the dirt track just because we have so much fun that night."

ROBBY GORDON, (Finished Second in 2008 Prelude to the Dream ):

What were your first impressions of Eldora?

"Well, last year was my first time ever being at Eldora and I went there after an invitation from Tony and with Scott Bloomquist. It was fun. It was a neat racetrack and the fans were amazing. You know, they lined the streets for a mile getting into that place. So, that was really cool and I am looking forward to going back."

How did Scott Bloomquist help you last year?

"Scott took me testing in Nashville and we ran at a track there and it worked out well because it was a track that was fairly similar. We did 70 to 80 laps there and then rolled off to Eldora and qualified sixth and ran second in the race. So, it was fun for us."

Why is the Prelude so special?

"Well, I think, obviously, it is the event that Tony has put together. The program that they put together really seems to work and all the drivers seem to really enjoy it, so there are a lot of things that make it successful. It definitely starts with Tony, and then the Speedway, and then the promotional things that everybody gets behind and does to help promote it."

What will it take to beat Tony at Eldora?

"I don't know. I mean, Tony is so good there. It would be like Tony coming to Baja -- it just takes a while and it doesn't matter what kind of racing it is, NASCAR or IndyCar, off-road trucks or even a dirt car. The experience is the one thing that you can't just learn overnight. It takes time. I was happy with our result last year and I would like to go back there and beat Tony there. I think everybody would. It's Tony's track. It would be like Tony racing me down my street coming home to my house. I think I could drive that route blind."

Why should fans watch on HBO Pay-Per-View?

"Because we are going for Tony."

-credit: tsr

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About this article
Series Charity , Stock car
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ron Capps , Robby Gordon , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Scott Bloomquist , Kasey Kahne , Ray Evernham , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing