Since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ smashing debut at Eldora Speedway in 2013, speculation has sprouted about whether the Cup Series could be molded to the short track.
The better question might be whether the historic half-mile clay oval, which opened in 1954 and was bought by Tony Stewart in 2004, could be retrofitted to meet specs of playing host to NASCAR’s premier series without altering its character.
“Would a Cup race work? Yes,” Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “But at that point, you’re having to make alterations to the facility. Say a full pit road. How to do that and not compromise nearly 65 years of the Eldora legacy?”
The track also lacks a SAFER barrier because the soft-wall technology is designed to be anchored and mounted on an asphalt surface. Slack also said the dirt and mud that would be slung into its crevices would hamper the SAFER barrier’s efficacy because it wouldn’t flex in the intended manner to cushion impacts.
“If there was an option to do it that worked on dirt, in all likelihood, we’d be the first place to go and install it purposely for a dirt track,” he said. “There’s a motorsports safety council (that is) trying to take a look at it.”
There also could be space concerns about handling the fleet of 18-wheelers that transports the Cup circuit around the country.
“It’s not just 40 haulers” for the teams, Slack said. “It’s at least 100 haulers, and you have to have room for 100 semis.”
After the truck’s debut, Stewart lobbied hard for NASCAR to bring the Xfinity or Cup Series to the track, but he has been less vocal the past three years.
“If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup and (Xfinity) cars aren’t a big stretch,” Stewart said in 2014. “It’s definitely feasible. It’s just a matter of is that something they want to do?”
Slack believes the Xfinity Series wouldn’t work as well as trucks because its costs would preclude dirt-track moonlighting, and it wouldn’t offer the star power of Cup.
“The trucks are different, they look different,” Slack said. “It’s something our local dirt racers can raise some money and get into the show. That makes it unique enough where it still works. I don’t think Xfinity would work as it is.”
But there is strong evidence that a Cup race would be a major draw. Using Late Models provided by dirt track teams, Cup stars raced in the annual Prelude to the Dream at Eldora from 2005-12.
“Would a Cup race work there? Yes,” Slack said. “Would it work in the middle of the week? Yes. Would it work financially? Yes.”
So is there any hope of putting it on the front burner for NASCAR?
“They don’t return my normal calls, let alone those ones,” Slack said with a laugh about NASCAR officials.
In the meantime, the track is happy to have become one of the crown jewel events on the truck schedule.
“You really have to respect the truck guys,” Slack said. “They work their guts out. A lot of them are not making very much money, struggling to be there, and they come and bring a truck built for asphalt and race it on dirt. And they are extremely appreciative we have the event.”
During the podcast, Slack also discussed:
–The top-secret test in 2012 with Austin Dillon and Stewart to ensure the trucks would work on dirt;
–The renaissance and resurgence of dirt racing and its appeal;
–What it’s like working for Tony Stewart.
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