Prelude to The Dream

Once again I have spent another June evening watching the Prelude.  If you have never caught the Prelude to the Dream, well you are missing out on some fantastic racing.  This is my fourth year of watching the event.  It is a pay per view event, however proceeds go to the charity the event benefits each year.  This year it was Feed The Children.

The Prelude is held each year at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.  Eldora is owned by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.  Each year Tony invites many of his fellow NASCAR drivers to compete in late-model cars on this dirt track in Ohio.  NASCAR car drivers are not the only ones who are invited each year either. Tony also invites drivers from NHRA and IRL.  I usually don’t compare the ball and stick sports to NASCAR because NASCAR, in my opinion, is different from ball and stick sports on many levels.  But this type of racing on dirt is like being at a minor league baseball game.  Drivers are racing for no points, but bragging rights.  This year was no different.

All the usual suspects were there this year–Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Kenny Schrader, Kenny Wallace and yes, even 5-time himself Jimmie Johnson.  This year’s drivers also included Danica Patrick.  I found this very intriguing.  This was going to be the first time she would race in this type of race car and on this type of racing service.  She didn’t do too bad for her first time on dirt.  In case you haven’t watched late-model dirt racing, you have to turn right to go left.  It felt like she was a fish out of water but at least she gave it a shot.  I still wonder why Dale Jr hasn’t tried his hand at this event.  I think they could really draw quite a crowd if Dale Jr. ran it one time.  Of course, they draw a crowd for this event becuase of the love Tony has for Eldora and this event.

I was not disappointed.  I thought it was quite funny when Tony took Darryl Waltrip around the track in his late-model car.  I swear I think DW was screaming like a little girl the whole time he was in the car.  It was pretty hilarious.   Tony knows what he was doing and I don’t believe he lifted once.  Talk about your E-ticket ride!  Another great moment prior to the race was Tony’s presentation to Dick Bergren.  He gave Dick a racing helmet he wore during his championship season last year.  In case you weren’t aware, last weekend was Dick’s last race as a report for Fox.  I will miss him.  He was one of the best!

Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer clearly had the best cars of the night.  They were going at pretty good until Clint got into the wall.  I thought Kasey Kahne was going to run away with the even after Clint was knocked out.  But even on the dirt track Kasey is snake bit.  He ran into a stranded Bobby Labonte.  I don’t know if Kasey saw him, but that was a nasty crash.  It was nasty enough to take off one of Kasey’s wheels.  I believe Kasey saw him, but due to the racing surface couldn’t stop in time.  This opened the door for Kyle Busch.  It was pretty much that way the rest of the race.  Tony was trying to get make his way towards the front, but didn’t have enough laps left.  Congratulations to Kyle Busch!

One of these days I would love to make the pilgrimage to Eldora to watch the event live.  I love watching dirt racing.  It brings me back to those Saturday nights in Amarillo when my family would head out to the dirt track.  It wasn’t a complete Saturday night until you go some of that mud in your hair that was flung from the cars on the race track.  I can still hear the sounds of the cars as the went around the track.  It brings me back to a time when I was carefree and had my future in front of me.

Thank you Tony Stewart!

Got Dirt?

There was plenty of dirt to be had last night in Rossburg, Ohio home of Eldora Speedway.  Last night Eldora Speedway hosted the Prelude to the Dream.  Once again I ponied up the money to watch this event on pay-per-view since I wasn’t able to make the trek up to Ohio. Last year’s event was a blast to watch so I was expecting it to be the same this year and it didn’t disappoint.

Several of your NASCAR favorites were there (sorry Junior Nation, Junior wasn’t one of those in attedance).  You had the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, along with Red Farmer, and two drivers from the NHRA , Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps willing to step out of their prospective comfort zones to spend time getin’ all “dirtied” up for a worthy cause.  The proceeds were to benefit the Tony Stewart Foundation who regularly donates to the Victory Junction Gang camp.  This year Tony wanted to raise $1 million to kick start the 2nd Victory Junction Gang camp that will be located in the Kansas City area. 

Now on to the festivities…

I consider myself to a well informed blogger, but sometimes I just know things.  First we had a qualifying session where Dave Blaney beat out everyone for the pole and set a new track record at 15.436 seconds beating the old record held by none other than track owner Tony Stewart.  I don’t know what this was for to be honest.  I am going to assume it was to set the order for the three qualifying heats or the feature main.  I really don’t know.  So if any of my regular readers know, please explain.  Anyhow, once qualifying was over, there were three qualifying heats.  The top three transferred into the feature main, but I think everyone that was invited to the Prelude was in the race.  I was so confused by it all.  But even so there was quite a bit of racing…and not just driving around in a circle.

The first heat was the most action packed with JJ Yeley spinning and collecting Mark Martin and Aric Armirola.  Unfortunately that was all the racing Mark would be able to do.  They were unable to repair his car and get him back for the feature main.  The winner of the first heat was Clint Bowyer which is no surprise here.  He owns his own dirt track team and in fact owned the car Jimmie JOhnson was driving last night.  The second heat had what I called some of the heavy hitters.  Heat 2 lineup: Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kenny Wallace, Bill Elliott, Cruz Pederegon, Kasey Kahne.  As no suprise to anyone, certainly not me, Tony Stewart won the 2nd heat.  The third heat winner was Robby Gordon.

Once the qualifying heats were over, it was on to the big race.  It was a 30 lap shootout for all the marbles.  There were only two leaders in this race, Kevin Harvick who lead lap one and Tony Stewart who lead the other 29 laps.  Even though Tony was giving a clinic on how to run on dirt, it was fun to watch.  I enjoyed watching Robby Gordon race.  You would have thought Robby raced quite a bit on dirt, but not the case.  He has raced on dirt, but not in a circle.  Last night was his first time to drive on a circle of dirt.  And where did Robby finish…that would be 2nd place.  Not bad for a first timer.  Robby wasn’t the only first timer at the Prelude.  Two-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was on hand driving one of Clint Bowyer’s cars.  I couldn’t understand why he was driving a white car.  I mean a white car on dirt.  Doesn’t sound like a good combo to me.  I am pretty sure the car didn’t stay completely white after the race. 

Kyle Busch also raced, but didn’t do fair as well as he did last year.  He almost won last years event.  He still drove like he stole it though.  He did hit the wall during his qualifying heat, but the car’s crew was able to repair the damage car to get him ready for racing for the feature main.  He wasn’t just standing by either, he had hammer in hand pounding out sheet metal.

The racing was good, but the best part of the event were the drivers.  You could tell these boys were having fun.  This race wasn’t about points or a championship.  It was all for fun!  You got to see them in an environment where the racing was about having a good time.  The drivers were smiling and laughing with one another.  To me, this is what racing should be about.   Another highlight of the evening was driver introductions.  It was funny to watch them trying to get the drivers corralled–kinda of like herding cats.  Some of them looked like they had no clue they were being introduced to the audience.  They were to busy talking with other drivers, etc.  I can tell this wasn’t your typical NASCAR driver introduction.  The only resemblence to a NASCAR driver introduction were the boos I heard when they introduced Jeff, Jimmie, and Kyle.  Even in Rossburg, Ohio, these three get majority of the boos.

I don’t know if I mentioned it but Tony Stewart walked away with the trophy last night and Kyle Petty walked away with a $1 million check from Tony Stewart. 

I would have to give major props to Tony Stewart for all the work he has done with regards to the Victory Junction Gang camp.  I believe this is the 3rd million dollar check he has presented to the Pettys.  Say what you want about Tony, but he truly gives of himself with regards to his foundation as well as Victory Junction.  I don’t know Tony personally, I only know what I read about him.  I do know majority of us see Tony for his on track personality, but last night was what the real Tony is all about.  So if you didn’t get a chance to watch this year’s Prelude last night, check out when they show it on Speed later this year.  I definitely say it was worth my $25.