In a press conference prior to Wednesday’s Mudsummer Classic, Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart hinted at wanting more NASCAR races at the track, not another Camping World Truck Series race, rather a Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series race in addition to the truck event.
I am sure the asphalt intelligentsia is already dreaming up reasons why this would not be possible, but I can think of reasons why it should be done-especially the Sprint Cup Series. First, Stewart has spent a lot of money upgrading facilities, and the newest track project will be a building housing media, a medical center, and a hospitality area-all important for big-time NASCAR events. The track has a history of hosting big events-including million dollars to win races, and with the old Prelude to the Dream and now the truck races, have the details for a big NASCAR show down pat.
Second, with FOX and NBC paying a ton of money for rights to televise NASCAR races starting in 2015, the networks will be making demands on NASCAR to get some return on their investment. Talk has been thrown around of midweek Sprint Cup events at tracks like Iowa Speedway, so why not Eldora? Think of the incredible amount of publicity that NASCAR Sprint Cup returning to its roots would generate. TV ratings would go through the roof. I truly believe such a race at night would give NASCAR bigger ratings than it has seen for quite some time.
Third, sponsorship should be an easy sell. I think a major sponsor would be thrilled to be associated with such an event. A big dollar sponsor would make for a big dollar purse. The ten largest corporations in Ohio are: Cardinal Health, Kroger, Proctor & Gamble, Marathon Petroleum, Nationwide Insurance, Macy’s, Goodyear, Progressive Insurance, First Energy, and American Electric Power. Yes, there are a few names that stand out because of a relationship already with auto racing.
Fourth, tickets for a Sprint Car race on dirt would sell out like a Rolling Stones concert. With general admission hill side seating, the track can hold at least 20,000 spectators, probably more. It would be an SRO crowd. There would be no TV shots of empty seats, or advertising banners covering up empty seats. Price tickets at $50-$100 with better seats and perks going to those paying the higher amount, and ticket revenue would be in the neighborhood of $1,500,000. I call that a pretty nice neighborhood. Add another $500,000 in revenue by selling tickets for practice the day before the event or 20,000 x $25. Suites and camping/RV sales and advertising and ubiquitous dirt track race t-shirts would add to the track’s revenue.
Of course there is a downside. Realistically, only 30 cars could race in an Eldora event. So, invite only the top 30 in points. Go to www.NASCAR.com and look at the Sprint Cup point standings, especially drivers ranked 31st and lower. If these drivers missed a race, would you still watch the race? Of course you would. As far as points, well, these drivers haven’t exactly earned a lot of points every race anyway. If need be, give every driver not invited 30th place points for the night.
The biggest draw back would be that NASCAR fans would actually discover real racing, cars speeding around the track side by side, even three wide, no follow the leader for lap after lap. Track position wouldn’t play a big part in a race on dirt, and neither would fuel mileage.
The format could be similar to the truck race format. Time trials, heats, and last chance races have long been a part of dirt track grassroots racing. Time trials would determine heat line-ups, and heat races and last chance races would determine the feature starting line-up. I also like the scheduled pit stops that aren’t mandatory. I like the idea that cars remaining on the track go to the front of the field, but that cars pitting do not lose their position in relation to other cars that pit-i.e. if a car is first when it goes into the pits, it will be the first car behind those that did not pit.
ARCA cars similar to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars have raced on half-mile dirt tracks in the past. Many Sprint Cup drivers have raced dirt late models, either during the Prelude to the Dream, or in appearances at dirt tracks around the country. Clint Bowyer is just one Sprint Cup driver fielding a late model team-actually two separate teams, and late models could be leased from other national caliber drivers if current Sprint Cup cars were not used. For example, Kyle Busch has driven a Scott Bloomquist car in the past, and Tony Stewart has driven a Rocket chassis car for builder Mark Richards.
I am not certain about how many laps such an event should run. Not less than 100, not more than 200. The track prep crew at Eldora Speedway is good, and if some track “farming” was done prior to the feature, it could be the higher total. That would also depend on which car was used, the heavier Sprint Cup cars, or late models weighing about 1,000 pounds less.
As far as when to hold such an event, there are plenty of midweek dates that would be feasible. Tie it in with a race scheduled at one of the tracks already on the Sprint Cup schedule, like Michigan, Kentucky, Indianapolis, or Pocono. Drivers would race in Ohio on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then go to a track no more than an hour away via their jets.
There is a great deal of logic to have such an event, and with Stewart behind it, the chances of it actually happening are better than if he wasn’t involved. How about the 2016 Ohio 200 presented by Nationwide Insurance? “Nationwide is on your side.”
Thanks for stopping by.