Since its debut event in 2005, the Prelude to the Dream started out as a way for Tony Stewart to continue donating funds to the Victory Junction Gang camp. From 2005 through 2008 the race raised money for the camp and also for the Tony Stewart Foundation. Since 2009, the annual event has raised money for various charities and this year is no different with the funds raised going to Feed the Children. It can be watched on HBO via Pay-Per-View, with the proceeds making up a part of the total donation to the charity. While the event is a fantastic effort that exemplifies the philanthropic side of NASCAR, it also whets the appetite for those fans of the sport who long, once again, to see the best stock car drivers in the world turn laps on a dirt racing surface. Of course, it hasn’t happened in a points-paying race on the Cup schedule since 1971, however, a dirt race would be a great addition to the diverse listing of race tracks the Cup series currently utilizes on its docket.
The ARCA series has been running on dirt since 1996 at both the DuQuoin and Springfield race tracks in Illinois. They do not utilize customized dirt cars like the Late Models that are used at the Prelude; instead they simply modify their normal stock cars with a slightly different setup than they run on asphalt and have at it. It is part of the season-long championship that crowns a winner who is able to compete on short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways, road courses and dirt tracks. That gives ARCA, and not NASCAR, the most diverse schedule of tracks run by any touring series.
The roots of NASCAR are buried deep in the red clay of the Carolinas. The earliest competitors were moonshine runners who got together to try and prove who had the fastest cars. During its formative years, NASCAR’s premier series competed on small, dusty bullrings throughout the Southeast, and the majority of them were under a half-mile in length, testing the drivers’ physical skills every lap. However, when the schedule was revamped in 1972, all tracks under a half-mile were eliminated, and the dirt-track heritage of the sport was left behind.
With the recent slide in attendance numbers at the race track, and the television audience that has been a little more worse than flat over the last half decade, sparking new interest in the sport would certainly be beneficial to everyone involved. As the Prelude continues to draw bigger and bigger numbers every year, the people in Daytona have to be taking notice. Perhaps the time has come to take the sport back to its humbler roots. So many people are clamoring for the sport to get back to more short tracks, why not kill two birds with one stone?
The Prelude will be a great display of driving talent from drivers inside and outside of NASCAR and will raise a truckload of money for charity. It will also showcase the fact that there is a massive audience for dirt track racing that is completely untapped by NASCAR thanks to their abandonment of their roots some 40 years ago. It is time to change that and get the Cup series back on dirt.
To quote an old racing adage: “Dirt is for racing, asphalt is for getting there.”
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