Eldora Race Format Still Up in the Air
The first NASCAR race on dirt since 1970 is shaping up to be everything the series and the track had hoped for. All grandstand seating has sold out for the event, and people are coming from all over the country to witness this race. The track has been equipped with extra timing loops and minor safety precautions, but track management assures that Eldora will retain its dirt track field.
No additional grandstands will be built, and the track cannot create any new on-site parking because of the neighboring farmland. The trucks will have their traditional chassis, but gone will be the front splitter. One important aspect though will stay, and can cause an interesting dilemma.
NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series uses the traditional points guaranteed rule that was formerly known as the top 35 rule in Sprint Cup, which has since been abolished. This ensures more competitive teams that are in the top 25 in Truck Series points a guaranteed starting spot in the race. But this doesn’t account that for the variable of heat races, something not run in traditional NASCAR races, but a staple and necessity on dirt tracks everywhere.
It is also a tradition that Eldora is adamant on keeping, and will have to keep, considering there are no permanent pits within the tracks walls. Heat races are incredibly entertaining but they pose a problem for the top 25 rule considering that heat races are unpredictable. An inexperienced driver may wreck or not be able to qualify for the main event, which becomes a sponsor’s nightmare.
The question will be not if heat races will be implemented, but what NASCAR will do as an insurance policy to protect its top 25 rule. Ideally, NASCAR would make an exception for this race. The scheduled race distance is towards 150 laps on the half mile track, meaning heats would be towards the 50 lap mark. Simply put, the fastest trucks should get in. The last thing any fan would want to see is a top-tier team is able to unload a backup truck in-between the heats and the main event while a lesser team is forced home. That would be a sad sight, and somewhat spoil what is supposed to be a night of retrospect when racing was far simpler and less political.
This is all still hypothetical but the decision will be coming for Rossburg, Ohio fairly shortly. When it does, hopefully it is a format that can satisfy both fans and sponsors alike, a fine line that NASCAR continually walks far too often.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @mike486