How can one look back, but also look ahead in one instant? How can the past also become the present and the future? How can one honor history, while also creating it's own?
It is hard to do any of this, but in a sense, when NASCAR returned a second time to Eldora Speedway on Wednesday night. When NASCAR announced it's first trip to the dirt track in 2013, immediately anticipation went as high as if it was the beginning of a new season. No other event had so much praise, hype, or excitement as the inaugural Mud Summer Classic. NASCAR on dirt, the first time in nearly half a century; it had a certain vibe that just seemed to be unlike anything NASCAR had done up to that point.
Appropriately, the Truck Series was the one that got the nod to make the trip. Trucks and dirt, much like ham and cheese or a burger and fries, are just a perfect match.
What NASCAR did with just one race, and now another, is both write a new chapter in the sport's vast history, but also pay homage to where it came from. Normally it takes a long time to do such a task, but it has occurred.
It's well-known that NASCAR's humble beginnings were on the back roads where moonshine runners would try to get away from the police to get their product delivered. It then became an idea of who had the best car, and the local dirt tracks were the places they decided to find out. NASCAR would get bigger as each race went on, and track designs from small ovals to intermediate designs, even a complete circle, were popping up across the country.
As the years passed, asphalt became the norm, but many people often wondered if the sport would go back to it's roots, and go back to dirt.
Realistically, there was only one true track to make it happen, and that was Eldora. NASCAR drivers had been there for years, running a charity "Prelude to the Dream" late model race after Tony Stewart bought the track back in 2003. Drivers like Kenny Wallace, Carl Edwards, Stewart himself, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch have raced and won at that event. Drivers like Travis Pastrana, Danica Patrick, and even stars outside of NASCAR like Ron Capps, came there to get a little dirty, and have a little fun at the same time.
When the 2013 event came to be, it was past, present and future all in one night.
NASCAR came back to dirt to give an old-school feel to the sport, but with an entirely new generation of fans that had never seen NASCAR on any surface except asphalt. It was different, but what came along with it was heritage.
Now, the sport is writing new chapters to a book that many thought was already closed and was never going to be touched again. The sport has something unique when it takes the trucks to Eldora. Two straight years, the place has sold out, with even more fans buying standing-room only tickets this year compared to a year ago. Even with an overcast sky and rain earlier in the day, everyone came out to experience the Mud Summer Classic.
The new tradition every July is not what happens at the big track in Indiana anymore, even though it gets headlines ultimately at the end of the weekend. Instead, it's the state next door that has stolen some thunder by slinging dirt up against the wall, and the winner taking a shovel to the track to keep some of it for themselves.
Honoring the past, but writing a future all in one race. That is the perfect package for a NASCAR fan.