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Trucks

Eldora Signals New Era for NASCAR

Tony Stewart says he’s going wait until after this weekend’s Brickyard 400 before making any decisions about the future of the Mudsummer Classic.

If he has the desire to do this all over again, he will certainly have the demand for a follow-up performance from NASCAR and the Camping World Truck Series.

Just moments after Austin Dillon won the inaugural event, fans took to Twitter, calling the race “the event of the year,” surging the #MudsummerClassic and #Eldora hashtags to no. 5 and 7 on the countrywide now trending list.

Basing it purely on the live reaction, the event appears to be an indisputable success for everyone involved. Despite only drawing a humble crowd of 23,000 (a sellout at the Ohio half-mile), the event was the most exciting in terms of energy this entire season and will likely overshadow everything else that happens down the road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So what happens next?

Dillon was so thrilled to compete at Eldora that he expressed a desire to come back twice next year. Third-place finisher Ryan Newman wants additional dirt races too but would rather see NASCAR expand to other eligible tracks, assuming they meet the safety and logistical requirements.

But this isn’t just about dirt tracks — it’s about variety.

Both the Nationwide and Truck Series schedules have become Diet Xerox copies of Cup in recent years and once fans were shown a hint of diversity, they treated it as if it were an “11 out of 10.”

The Mudsummer Classic was a very good race and the response is just a reminder that fans are really starting to demand more. And if the Eldora Truck Series race was supposed to appease that demand, it’s not going to last long because now they know what they are missing.

It wasn’t too long ago that both the Truck and Nationwide Series had its own separate identities with tracks like Saugus Speedway, Memphis, Gateway and international road courses like Mexico and Montreal a fixture on the schedule.

And on Wednesday, Eldora and the Truck Series proved the value of atmosphere, with a sold out crowd making a little dirt track race feel bigger than the Super Bowl. They even chanted, in unison, ‘we want Cup cars’ at Robin Pemberton following victory lane celebrations. Good luck getting that sort of crowd cohesion at Talladega.

And while a Sprint Cup event on dirt might be too much to ask for now, the seeds may have already been planted in what was once a cornfield in Southwest Ohio.

By Matt Weaver

Matt Weaver is the Executive Editor of POPULAR SPEED. He has covered NASCAR since 2011 and full-time since 2013. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He has been published all across the country and routinely makes radio appearances on Sirius XM Satellite radio and NBC Sports Radio Network.

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