Prelude To The Dream all-star event brings out the best

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Eric Mauk

The eighth annual Prelude To The Dream all-star late-model event will take place Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway and while the drivers that make up the starting field have more than 60 series championships – many of the drivers that will compete on the famed Eldora dirt oval will be virtual rookies to this type of racing.

The event, which will give the net proceeds from the evening to the Feed The Children charity, features many of the top drivers from all types of racing including NASCAR, Indy Car, NHRA and World of Outlaws sprint car series. But while the majority of tonight’s competitors have raced and won around the world, some will spend the evening getting used to a new style of racing.

Story Highlights

  • More than 60 series championships in tonight’s field
  • Only place this weekend fans can see Kurt Busch race
  • Danica’s dirt debut

“I’ve made a lot of laps around Eldora the last 30 years but I’ve never done it in a Dirt Late Model. Heck, I’ve never even raced one anywhere, let alone at Eldora,” said World of Outlaws sprint car legend Steve Kinser. “I’m really not sure what to expect, but Tony (Stewart) will be a pretty big asset. He’s been in a Late Model and a Winged Sprint Car there, before, so I’m sure he can translate some of the similarities. It’s going to be something different, that’s for sure.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 leads Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 through turn four
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 leads Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 through turn four

Photo by: Getty Images

The event, which can be seen live via HBO Pay-Per-View at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, is the brainchild of Eldora track owner Tony Stewart. The former USAC, Indy Car and current NASCAR champion has put together a star-studded field for this charity event, but Stewart admits that – as with most things that racers do – the competition is the key for them.

We want to be the guy who has beat the rest of them. It’s something these guys take a lot of pride in and, like we say when we get to the Cup weekend after that, that’s what we talk about the first two days until we race on Sunday

Tony Stewart

“Yeah, it’s big bragging rights amongst each other,” Stewart said. “Internally amongst each other in the garage area and from the different series, we want to be the guy who has beat the rest of them. It’s something these guys take a lot of pride in and, like we say when we get to the Cup weekend after that, that’s what we talk about the first two days until we race on Sunday.”

11 Steve Kinser
11 Steve Kinser

Photo by: Jeff Kapic

There are 19 drivers in this event that are affiliated with NASCAR, ranging from young Nationwide Series talent such as Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier to former drivers such as Ken Schrader and team owner Ray Evernham. But the field is also stocked with driver like Indy Car star Tony Kanaan, NHRA titlists Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon and Sprint car drivers like Donny Schatz and J.J. Yeley.

In an interesting twist, tonight’s event is the only place where you will see Kurt Busch race this weekend. The NASCAR driver has been suspended for the weekend by the series after a tirade against a media member forced NASCAR to sideline the volatile driver.

“Just going to Eldora is a treat in itself,” Busch said. “And then racing on the dirt, pulling tear-offs, you know, just hanging out with the fraternity of drivers, doing something like this is fun. But then, doing it for charity, making a difference, that’s what Tony Stewart’s always been about.”

The eighth edition of the event will feature a newcomer to the fraternity that Busch speaks of, as former Indy Car race winner and current NASCAR driver Danica Patrick becomes the first female driver to run in the Prelude To The Dream. Of course, the all-star event will not be the only first of the evening for Patrick, who knows that she has a full evening of education ahead of her.

“I’ve heard of Eldora. But I don’t think I’ve been to Eldora before. I have been to a dirt track before," Patrick admits. "I raced on dirt one time in my life in a Go-Kart. It was at Charlotte, actually. There’s a little dirt track outside of the back straightway. I was probably 14 years old, so, you know we’re talking about 15 years ago, so I don’t even remember.

“I’m sure I’ll just kind of ask general questions – when to lift, when not to lift. Things like that. But when I heard that you get sideways when you get out of the throttle, I thought, ‘Well, that just sounds like fun.’ So I think it’s just going to come from running it. And, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how I do. It just matters that we’re all there, and that we’re putting on a good show, and that we’re generating attention and everybody’s going and purchasing the event on HBO Pay-Per-View and making a lot of money for Feed The Children.”

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Tags eldora, featured, kinser, mauk, nascar, nhra, patrick, stewart