Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Tony Stewart And HBO Are About To Make History
Leave it to a tough-minded and hard-headed sprint car driver to pull off one of the most unexpected sports television happenings of the year. The influence of dirt racers from the Midwest in NASCAR was felt first with Jeff Gordon. Ridiculed as "soft" and "immature," Gordon woke the NASCAR boys up with a victory at Daytona in the Twin 125's and has never looked back. Now, Tony Stewart carries the dirt racing banner as he assembles an all-star cast for a night of racing for charity.
Eldora Speedway is like a lot of dirt tracks across America. Its a half-mile banked dirt oval that races everything under the sun. But this speedway has something going for it that not too many others can boast. Tony Stewart owns it.
For the past several years, with varying amounts of success, Stewart has gathered NASCAR friends together on one night to race Late Model Stock Cars at Eldora. It was a good way to draw a crowd on a Wednesday, it did not interfere with the NASCAR schedule, and gave a financial boost to several charities. Now, like almost everything associated with NASCAR, it has exploded.
Wednesday night, HBO will offer the "Prelude to the Dream" night of live racing from Eldora on pay-per-view nationwide. There are currently over sixty million households that can access this event. At a cost of $24.95, Stewart and HBO are betting that bored NASCAR fans will pay-up and tune-in to see their heroes slug it out on a dirt bullring with no restrictor plates, no NASCAR Inspectors, and not a COT in sight.
To entice fans, Stewart will divide any money raised into both his charity foundation and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. This has been a favorite charity of Stewart's, and he has handed Kyle and Pattie Petty checks worth well over a million dollars in the memory of their late son Adam. For NASCAR fans, there is no better cause then charity, and no better charities than these.
Recently, Stewart went about asking drivers if they would fly up to Eldora, race in a heat race, then the B Main, and finally the Feature. Unfortunately, he experienced one big problem. Everyone said yes. This year, both Eldora and Stewart are going to be up to their eyeballs in drivers. While the usual suspects came along for the ride, some of the participants are very interesting, and one is downright unbelievable.
Mike and Kenny Wallace, along with Kenny Schrader are absolutely the usual suspects. But, there are over twenty-five other NASCAR and NHRA drivers who are "rounding out the field." Among them are seventy-five year old legend Red Farmer, former driver and now owner Ray Evernham, and some guy named Mark Martin who keeps telling us he is going to retire...but never does. The list is incredible.
Then, there is the unbelievable. The mix of drivers from different forms of racing has never been deeper in NASCAR than it is now. They come from different series, different countries, and very different backgrounds. But, one driver stands alone this year as the new "Mr. Excitement." The good news for HBO customers is that "Mr. Excitement" is coming to Eldora and your home live on pay-per-view.
Sometime Wednesday night, former Formula-1 driver and Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will be slinging dirt under the lights on a hot summer night in Ohio. The Colombian who never raced a stock car before this season will be sideways with some of the top dirt track drivers in the nation. As we know from his history this year, there may well be some "bumping" going on as he "learns" this sport. How incredible would it be...if he won the Feature?
Both NEXTEL and Old Spice have stepped-up to the plate this year and their financial assistance has made this possible. Also, veteran announcer Mike Joy will be on-hand to call the action with Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty in the booth. On pit road will be "Dr. Dirt" Dick Berggren, with Tony and Sirius Radio pal Matt Yocum as the TV hosts. Outstanding TV Producer Pam Miller will lead the broadcast, with Fox Sports Artie Kempner directing. That line-up is almost as stellar as the drivers.
I don't know where you will be Wednesday night, but I can tell you very clearly that I will be watching "the boys" mix it up in Ohio on pay-per-view with my family. I like that the money is going to charity, I like that the line-up is outstanding, and I cannot miss the first moment that Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Juan Montoya go into Turn 1 side-by-side on dirt and only two come out on the backstretch. No matter how you slice it, this is going to be good.
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