Austin Dillon, Richard Childress’s Grandson, has won NASCAR’s first dirt track race in 43 years. After starting 19th, Dillon won in an incredible race over Ryan Newman and phenom Kyle Larson, who struggled late. After much waiting and speculation, the event certainly did not disappoint.
Larson seemed to dominate early, and he ran the truck with the skill and grace he displayed in USAC. However, two late restarts, where Larson missed a gear and had to start on the bottom, doomed the talented driver.
There were no points on the line for the top three trucks, and they put on a phenomenal show. On this night of precedent, regardless of either surface or circumstance, Austin Dillon beat out Ryan Newman. It is rumored those two are competing for Kevin Harvick’s open seat next year.
The ratings won’t be released for another day or so, but the consensus on social media and in the grandstands is that NASCAR knocked this event out of the park. The venue was absolutely astounding, understanding the tradition while providing a visceral, modern, incredible-to-watch race.
The crowd was as dedicated as I have seen in a long time, far more than any crowd in recent memory. From the first trucks to practice, to the epic battle between Norm Benning and Clay Greenfield, to the main event which provided battles the entire night, the crowd was loud, engaged and displayed the passion and tradition reflected of every driver on track.
Track owner Tony Stewart put on an incredible show which will certainly not be able to be recreated. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event. But, due to its success, NASCAR has hit a cash cow in terms of being able to generate publicity during an otherwise dull time in the sports world, and create more of a buzz before new television contracts begin in 2015.
First, the date and time were perfect. Having to only compete with baseball and soccer in terms of attention on both television and social media, Wednesday night has to officially become a go-to night in terms of scheduling special events. The heat was luke warm on social media when reporters descended upon the legendary Milwaukee Mile for a late-model race. After Eldora, the pressure continues to grow.
Also, the fact that it was on dirt provided not only excellent racing, but all speculation was set aside. The event was incredibly well run, organized, promoted, attended and most importantly, it was safe. Dirt tracks can certainly function in the future for NASCAR sanctioned races or even special events like the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. As fans clamor for more diversity, such as road courses, NASCAR knows it can return to dirt for instant success in the future.
All in all, the event was spectacular not only thanks to promotion, but the on-track product itself. Tony Stewart proved a great host, the Truck Series proved perfect for a blend of competition between dirt-track ringers, NASCAR’s future superstars and the rugged drivers of the Camping World Truck Series. In a sport which often falls on its face, it was refreshing to see everything come together so perfectly tonight for NASCAR tonight at Eldora. Congratulations to Austin Dillon and crew. Tonight, they won the first of what is hopefully many more NASCAR dirt track races.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486