By DAVID HUNTER
The stars of NASCAR raced at one of the hallowed grounds of motorsports, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this past weekend. Even though the 2.5-mile rectangle oval is more suited for Indycars, it was a chance for fans to see hometown hero, Jeff Gordon, race one last time on his home track. However, I believe the coolest race of the week was on the half-mile dirt track in Eldora, Ohio with the Camping World Truck Series.
For the third year in a row, the Truck series went old-school by racing on clay. Before the first Truck race at the legendary track in 2013, NASCAR last raced on dirt in 1970 with the Grand National Series (now Sprint Cup). It is so cool to watch the trucks run on dirt, especially when they do a slide job in the corners like the more traditional sprint and midget cars, who mostly makes a living racing on tracks across the nation like Eldora.
However, it is something different to see these trucks run on dirt. When, the race was announced three years ago, people wondered could these trucks, which are usually prepared to run on pavement and concrete handle the dirt. The answer was a definite yes. It brought something new and old back to the truck series, which was starting to lose creditability around the racing world since NASCAR decided to put their races on bigger tracks like Daytona and Talladega in the past few years.
When the series was created 20 years ago, most of the races were held on the traditional short tracks and a couple of road courses. However, as the series grew, NASCAR moved most of the races to the bigger tracks, which also hosted the Xfinity and the Sprint Cup Series.
Honestly, I believe it has been a bad move for the series. Granted the racing in the Truck Series is some of the best in all of motorsports, but they should go back to the roots, which means having most of the races on short tracks. For example, I would like the series to return to the Nashville Fairgrounds, which last hosted the series there 15 years ago.
Anyway back to Eldora, the track has the small-town feel like back in the day, while track owner and former Sprint Cup champion, Tony Stewart has modernized it to the current standards of today. Fans from around the nation converge on a small town in Ohio for arguably the best race of the Truck series season, especially seeing trucks not usually equipped to run on dirt do slide jobs around the turns.
As you know, automobile racing is my favorite sport, and I have attended or covered racing from many of the well-known racing series here in the United States, except for the NHRA, the Sprint Cup, and the more traditional dirt racing series, the World of Outlaws.
However, back almost a decade ago, when I was covering sports for the Clayton Tribune in northeast Georgia after getting my college degree. One night, there were some drivers racing Late Model dirt cars at a track about an hour away from the office. So, I decided to cover the action since I had never been to a race at a dirt track before. The action on the track was amazing, and the drivers were cool to interview after they were done.
At the same time, I made a stupid mistake while trying to cross the track and get into the pits during a break in the racing. They had just watered the track to help the cars get better traction before the next heat, so it was muddy, and stupid me I was not paying attention. I tripped over the stairs, which takes you into the pit area, and of course I fell into the mud. So, the rest of the night I did my job while being covered in mud. I truly learned my lesson for next time.
As for the truck race at Eldora, it was really cool that NASCAR decided to go back to their roots and have a race from one of its major series on dirt like back in the day. It is by far the best race of the season in the Truck Series.