The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

July 25, 2013

Trucks on dirt a fun event


Daily Item

---- — OK, let's see a show of hands as to how many of you thought the NASCAR truck race at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday night was going to be a crash fest.

Facebook was full of comments before the race about the potential of it being a wreck fest and most were picking Kyle Larson to win.

I wonder how many of you remember the first truck race in 1995? They ran two 100-lap features with a 30-minute break in between. Wednesday's night race was the best truck race in the series' 18 years of existence.

There were many highlights from Wednesday night, but a tip-of-the-cap has to go to Level Green's Norm Benning.

The 61-year-old former late model racer from western Pennsylvania got the last qualifying spot and then saluted the kid who tried to take him out by telling him he was No. 1 afterwards. It was a classic moment.

Benning finished 26th in the feature, but he showed a lot of the younger kids how to get up on the wheel and get the job done.

His name was even trending world-wide on Twitter.

While Benning stole the show during qualifying, Kyle Larson of Elk Grove, Calif., was the real star of the race.

Had it not been for the first caution for debris, Austin Dillon would not have been in victory lane.

Larson was quite poised afterwards, but you could tell he was bummed out after finishing second.

His talents should have him in an IndyCar, but more often than not, the young kids are chasing the money.

Over the 2012 Christmas holiday, Larson swept all four nights of the International midget World Series in New Zealand and led every lap of each feature. He's got talent and he has a very bright future.

The average speed of the race was 67.401 mph and the trucks were running in the 21.5-second bracket on average. Compare that with the track record for the sprint car around 12.5 seconds and the trucks seemed like they were going in slow motion.

Ken Schrader became the oldest NASCAR driver to win a pole at age 58. The late Dick Trickle had held the record when he won the pole for the 1999 NASCAR Nationwide Series at Dover at age 57.

Former late model racer and current Sprint Cup driver Clint Boyer couldn't contain himself during the broadcast.

"Do we have to go back (to asphalt), can't we stay on dirt," he said, to which Tony Stewart replied, "Yes we have to go back to make the money so our drivers can enjoy running dirt."

Other dirt-track racers who had great showings included Ryan Newman (third); Dave Blaney (ninth); Tracy Hines (13th) and Schrader (14th). Scott Bloomquist finished 25th.

Afterward, race fans were posting on Facebook how much they wanted dirt track racing back on TV just as the days of Wednesday Night Thunder and the American Sports Cavalcade.

The problem with that is the cost.

According to United States Auto Club president Kevin Miller, the Turkey Night Grand Prix for midgets in November will cost $150,000 for the production of a live two-hour broadcast. Throw in a satellite up-link truck and talent and that price goes up.

Wednesday's race was far more exciting than I thought it was going to be. It's not often at Eldora that you see sparks flying off the walls and race cars still going forward.

Now that NASCAR got a taste of what we all know about dirt-track racing, maybe they'll be some more races on dirt. The only problem is that they signed a new TV deal with NBC and if you read between the lines, the last 20 races of the season should have a late starting time so they can bump it right into Football Night America at 7.

NASCAR does one great thing in getting back to dirt and then screws it all up joining forces with NBC.

Anyone else miss the days of ESPN's Speedworld with Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and the late Benny Parsons?

I do.

n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item. Email comments to sports@dailyitem.com.