Sunday, June 03, 2007

Eldora event serves a good cause, but the fun has to be a factor, too

This week’s Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway, the legendary dirt track near Rossburg, Ohio, sounds like it will be a blast. Two dozen or so Nextel Cup stars gathering at the track Tony Stewart now owns to play in the dirt.

The event has grown exponentially in just its third year, and since the proceeds of the event go to a great charity like the Victory Junction Gang Camp it’s a very good thing.

This year’s event, set for Wednesday night, will be shown nationally via HBO pay per view. Proceeds from that go to the charity, too.

You do worry a little bit that this thing might be growing too fast. They’ll try to cram around 20,000 fans into Eldora, and I’ve been there. That’s probably 10 times more people than live within a 25-mile radius of the track itself.

You wonder if all of the fans who’re lucky enough to be there will come away happy, just because of the logistics of handling all that many people.

I know the people who’re putting the event on are going to try to make sure everyone has a good time. But I do know they’re working especially hard to make it an enjoyable evening for the drivers who come to participate. That means all of the media and maybe some autograph-seeking fans who attend might not come away totally happy.

In this case, I think that’s OK. I think the priority of an occasional event like this should be to make sure it’s fun for the people who’re putting on the show.

When Nextel Cup crew chiefs raced each other in thunder roadster cars before the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge, it was a mess. There might have been 10 decent laps of actual racing in both heats and the feature put together. But it didn’t matter that much. Everybody had a great time and that’s what the event should have been all about in the first place.

Being in the Nextel Cup business is a hard way to live. Yes, the money is great at the top level. But these guys absolutely work their fingers to a collective nub.

They’re in the sport because they love it, but every once in a while it’s nice to see them have a chance just to do something for nothing but fun.

That’s what the race at Eldora this week should be for the drivers. A chance to have fun.

You know they’ll get out there and want to compete, and that’s because they’re who they are. But this is not a championship event. Some of the drivers have raced on dirt before and some of them haven’t. And that’s OK. Nobody’s going to be handing out style points.

Somebody will count the laps and they’ll keep score about who’s first and who’s last. And there will be a count on the money that’s raised.

But the only things that really should count at Eldora on Wednesday are the smiles around the pits. For one night, racing will be fun again, and that’s plenty enough reason for this event to go right on happening.


Anonymous said...

I live about 40 miles to the north of Eldora and David is correct, there's NO WAY 20,000 people live within 25 miles of the track.. heck, it may be better to say within 50 miles.

I have been to this event before and it's spectacular, as are ALL events at the track.. while it's great to see the Cup boys playing in the dirt, it does NOT compete with the WoO's King's Royal held there next month. If ya want a real party and real fun, come for that event and enjoy the festivities of the weekend.

Good luck to the Nextel drivers and have fun.. thanks for raising this money it's great.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree David it's a great event for a great cause..Yeah maybe the logistics for the event might not be perfect but it puts fun back into racing which is a good thing...most people will leave the evnt with a smile on their faces and so will the the whole scope of things it get's a ten out of ten on the smile meter