Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prelude to The Dream: "One Perfect Night" of fun

Eldora Speedway is legendary in the world of short-track dirt racing.

To race fans, the track's very name conjures images of fast cars running sideways, dirt flying. Add 25+ top drivers from various motorsports series, racing for charity, and you've got the Prelude to the Dream. I’m sure you’ve heard it mentioned a few times if you've been following NASCAR this season, but if you’re new, you may have wondered what this “Prelude” is. Let me enlighten you.

When Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR champion, bought Eldora Speedway from the track’s original owner and founder, Earl Baltes, in 2004, he pledged to keep running the track’s signature events. One of those was the Dirt Late Model Dream that Baltes started in 1995, an event that paid $100,000 to the winner.

The next summer, Stewart created a race to raise money and awareness for various charitable organizations, an All-Star type race on the dirt where he loves to race. He invited fellow NASCAR drivers as well as drivers from other racing series to participate, running Late Model stock cars. He scheduled it for the week of the Dirt Late Model Dream and thus the Prelude to the Dream was born on the one-half mile banked clay oval in the Rossburg, Ohio cornfields.

When I spoke to "Smoke" in April, he told me that the whole concept of the Prelude was for drivers to be able to go out and race without worrying about the local short-track drivers. Many NASCAR regulars enjoy racing on dirt, but he explained, “There’s about a third of them [the local drivers] that are good drivers and want to win. There’s about a third of them that just want to beat you, and then the other third just wants to tear your car up. So it’s nice to go to a race like this where we all just want to have fun.”

Kenny Wallace won the inaugural event in 2005 and has participated every year since its inception.
Other winners include Stewart himself (2006, 2008, 20090, Carl Edwards (2007), Jimmie Johnson (2010), and defending race champion Clint Bowyer (2011).

Shown on pay-per-view, the revenue goes to a specific charity. This year it's Feed The Children, and the theme of the evening is One Perfect Night. With the lineup that Stewart's assembled, that's no idle boast. Featuring at least 26 drivers from NASCAR's three top series, IndyCar, World of Outlaws, and even NHRA with nearly 65 championships among them.

Some of the drivers have participated several times, some have never driven a late model car. Steve Kinser, 20-time World of Outlaws Champion, and Donny Schatz—4-time World of Outlaws Champion haven't competed in late models before. Danica Patrick makes her first start on dirt since her karting days while Austin and Ty Dillon, also first-timers, cut their racing teeth on the dirt.

Patrick, who Stewart said approached him about the event, said, "It’s meant to be a fun race, and for charity, and either way I’m sure it will be exciting. Whether myself or anyone else has a good or bad weekend, I’m sure we’ll all laugh a lot as it’s a charity event." The GoDaddy Girl should bring attention to the event and attention in this context should mean more dollars for Feed The Children.

The Prelude to the Dream schedule: 

5:25 p.m.: Qualifying draw (victory lane)
5:40 p.m. Driver’s meeting (media tent)
6:30 p.m. to 6:55 p.m.: Hot lap session No. 1
7:05 p.m. to 7:25 p.m.: Hot lap session No. 2
7:30 p.m.: Prelude To The Dream driver introductions (victory lane)
7:45 p.m.: Prelude To The Dream driver parade
8:00 p.m.: HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast begins
8:08 p.m.: Invocation and National Anthem
8:10 p.m.: Prelude To The Dream qualifying (2 laps)
8:45 p.m. Modified feature (15-minute timed event, including cautions)
9:05 p.m.: Prelude To The Dream Heat race No. 1
9:20 p.m. Prelude To The Dream Heat race No. 2
9:35 p.m. Prelude To The Dream Heat race No. 3
9:50 p.m. Prelude To The Dream Heat race No. 4
10:05 p.m.: Stock feature (15-minute timed event, including cautions)
10:25 p.m. Prelude To The Dream feature (40 laps)
11:00 p.m.: Prelude To The Dream winner’s circle and introduction of Feed The Children representatives

Among those committed to attending: 

·                     Steve Kinser                   
·                     Donny Schatz
·                     Tony Stewart
·                     Kyle Busch 
·                     Jimmie Johnson
·                     Ryan Newman
·                     Clint Bowyer
·                     Danica Patrick
·                     Justin Allgaier
·                     Aric Almirola
·                     Dave Blaney
·                     Kurt Busch
·                     Ron Capps
·                     Austin Dillon
·                     Ty Dillon
·                     Bill Elliott
·                     Ray Evernham
·                     David Gilliland
·                     Kasey Kahne
·                     Tony Kanaan
·                     Bobby Labonte
·                     Jason Leffler
·                     Cruz Pedregon
·                     Kenny Schrader
·                     Kenny Wallace
·                     JJ Yeley

If you want to see the Prelude To The Dream in person, tickets are available online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com or call the track office at (937) 338-3815. That's if any tickets are still available.

If you can't make it to Rossburg, you can watch the Prelude on HBO Pay-Per-View. Suggested retail is $24.95,  and you don't have to be an HBO subscriber to order, you just need a digital cable or satellite box. Find out more here. The race will be available for viewing for 24 hours after your order, and all proceeds go to Feed The Children.  

"As much as we want to have fun, there's a lot bigger cause here" Stewart said. SHR teammate Ryan Newman said, "The timing's perfect to raise that awareness, when school's over, they don't get their school lunches anymore and we've got to do our job to raise that awareness and bring funding."  

The top ten finishers get to send a tractor-trailer full of food to the location of their choice. Some drivers are already planning where their truck will go. 


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