Four Days Until the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream: Diverse Racing Diverse Racing Backgrounds Converge at Eldora NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice on June 6 Features Veteran Dirt Track Drivers Racing Against Dirt Neophytes, with...
Four Days Until the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream: Diverse Racing
Diverse Racing Backgrounds Converge at Eldora
NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice on June 6 Features Veteran Dirt Track Drivers Racing Against Dirt Neophytes, with all of the Action Live on HBO Pay-Per-View
ROSSBURG, Ohio (June 2, 2007) -- Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley and Dave Blaney say they regularly play on it. Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman have had a long hiatus from it. Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick have very limited experience with it. Juan Pablo Montoya might have only seen it in a flower bed.
What are all of these race car drivers referring to? They are talking about dirt, specifically the clay surface of the half-mile Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, home to the June 6 NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice.
The ultra-competitive all-star race, featuring a diverse cast of some of motorsports' most talented drivers with dirt and pavement experience, will be broadcast live for the first time on HBO Pay-Per-View with proceeds from this ground-breaking telecast supporting the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Tony Stewart Foundation.
The live broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. PDT), with an immediate replay and subsequent replays throughout the week and the following weekend. Prospective viewers can order the pay-per-view broadcast beginning Sunday, right up until race time. All that is necessary to order the broadcast is digital cable or satellite service. A subscription to HBO is not required. The suggested retail price for the event is $24.95. It is available to more than 61 million pay-per-view homes. Ordering information and up-to-the minute racing information is available at www.hbo.com/sports.
Of the 26 drivers scheduled to compete in this year's event, 10 have significant experience on dirt. Stewart, Yeley, Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ken Schrader, Red Farmer, Clint Bowyer and Kenny and Mike Wallace grew up on dirt and continue to test their skills in extra-curricular dirt track races across the country.
Other drivers, such as Bill Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and David Reutimann have only begun running on dirt in recent years.
Still others have a ton of dirt track racing experience, but not recently. Jeff Gordon hasn't run a dirt race since coming to NASCAR in 1991 when he competed in the NASCAR Busch Series. And Ryan Newman is another NASCAR driver who cut his teeth on the dirt bullrings of USAC, but has seen only limited dirt track action since joining Penske Racing's NASCAR operation in 2000.
Then there are the drivers with little to no experience on dirt. Ex-Formula One driver Montoya has never raced on dirt, and just behind him with only a handful of dirt appearances -- most of which came in the previous two NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice events -- are Hamlin, Martin, Harvick, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Ray Evernham and Elliott Sadler. Also included in this group are Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon from the NHRA, where neither dirt nor turning left is a part of their regular driving regimen.
Gordon is set to make a return to the dirt of Eldora Speedway for the first time since 1991. He last turned a lap at the facility in a USAC National Midget Car Series event en route to winning the championship later that season.
"It's been a long time since I've raced at Eldora," said Gordon. "Of course, that was in a Sprint car or a Midget or a Silver Crown car. So, I'm really looking forward to racing one of the late models. I've never done that before. But it's going to be spectacular. If you look at the list of drivers -- it's like a Nextel Cup event with dirt late models, which I think is going to be very cool."
Gordon, a four-time Nextel Cup champion, knows the transition back to dirt won't be easy after a 16-year break.
"I'm sure it's going to be a transition," said Gordon. "Any time you haven't done something in awhile, it is going to take you a little while to get the hang of it again. Plus, I've never driven a late model on dirt, and they drive a lot differently than Sprint cars or Midgets do. So I've been talking to Tony (Stewart) a little bit about it and I'm looking forward to going there and giving it my best shot."
Another driver with dirt experience who will look to hone his skills at Eldora is Kasey Kahne. The seven-time Nextel Cup race winner last competed on dirt this past winter in Australia, but will tackle a new challenge at Eldora in a dirt late model.
"I have a lot of experience on dirt," said Kahne. "I've raced on dirt in Sprint cars and Midgets, with and without wings. The last time I was on dirt was at a couple of dirt races in Australia over the winter, but I've never raced a dirt late model car.
"The best part about racing on dirt is being on the edge, and being able to race on the edge like that, sideways, getting all you can. Eldora is such a fun race track to be on. You can get all you can and not be on the edge of crashing. So this is a little bit different of a deal. It's fun and I can't wait to get there and get started and try to figure out those cars."
Then there are guys like Yeley, a five-time USAC champion, and Blaney, who raced in the World of Outlaws. Both grew up racing on dirt and look to jump back into a dirt car every chance they get.
"That's what I grew up doing," said Blaney, whose family owns Sharon Speedway, a dirt track in Hartford, Ohio. "That's the only thing I knew for a long, long time. I started in the early '80s and it was mid-'90s before I got to run any NASCAR races, or even on pavement, so there are 12 or 15 years where I was nothing but a dirt track guy."
Yeley also has a passion for racing on dirt, particularly at Eldora, where he has competed in countless USAC races dating back to 1997.
"Eldora is probably one of my favorite race tracks in the world," said Yeley, who started his career racing on dirt at Manzanita Speedway in his hometown of Phoenix. "Any time we get the opportunity to go run on dirt, I'm the first one in line. The most difficult thing about racing on dirt, especially at Eldora, is trying to find the right groove to suit your race car. It's not like the race tracks we drive on Sundays, where the bottom is the predominately fastest groove. It's a matter of finding the groove that fits your race car, and it's not always the most favored groove."
The third annual NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice will take place at Eldora Speedway on June 6. Gates open to the public at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with practice scheduled to begin shortly after 6 p.m.
For more information regarding ordering the event on HBO Pay-Per-View, log on to www.hbo.com/sports.