One common theme in NASCAR over recent years is which series fans feel has been the most exciting to watch. For the majority, that has been the Camping World Truck Series. Since being introduced in 1995, the addition of the trucks to the NASCAR schedule has brought a whole new dimension to the term "tailgating."
Over the years, the series has been sort of a test for some things, and has changed many times over the years. It took six years before the trucks took to Daytona, and for a while there were no pit stops during the race. There was a "halftime" break where teams could actually overhaul the truck to make it better for the end.
But as the years progressed, it became like it's older series, the Nationwide and Sprint Cup, but has kept its own identity. This season, NASCAR returned to Rockingham with the trucks, and saw incredible outpouring of support.
Now, for the 2013 season, the Camping World Truck Series is doing something that none of NASCAR's top three series have done, at least not in the modern era.
The 2013 Camping World Truck Series schedule includes two new tracks on the circuit, one being the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, an 10-turn road course. However, the one that has garnered the most attention the moment it was released was the addition of Eldora Speedway.
That means for the first time since the early days of NASCAR, the sport is returning to the roots of the sport. The Truck Series will be hitting the dirt in Rossburg, Ohio, on July 24, a Wednesday night, and is the second Wednesday night event on the schedule, the other being August 21 at Bristol.
“We’ve had talks about getting the trucks on dirt in the past,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “The door-to-door racing that our truck series is known for plus Eldora’s popularity and Tony’s dedication to putting on great shows for the fans is a perfect fit.
"We’ll have a maximum starting field of 30 trucks at Eldora. More details on the race format are still being developed.”
This seems to be a perfect fit because for the average working man, a truck is not exactly meant to be just an on-road type of vehicle. Trucks are equipped to handle the rough terrain of a dusty road, slinging mud, and also are better suited for trying to get through the snow. Adding the 0.5-mile oval dirt track seems to just fit perfectly for the trucks as it appeals to the working-class family, who use a truck often as their daily vehicle for both work and play.
At the same time, it also creates a new set of challenges that the modern NASCAR vehicle has never been put through.
Obviously, one big thing that will need to be addressed is visibility. Let's be honest, these trucks already have issues in the daylight when the windshield gets dirty with oil, rubber, and whatever else is on the track. A tear-off at Eldora won't do, it will be dirty within half a lap.
One other huge factor that will have to be dealt with is the tires. NASCAR already has a new rain tire, which has been used in the Nationwide Series once before, but now Goodyear is put in a very different situation, one that the sport's official tire has never seen. The company must figure out a tire compound for the dirt track, and that could be critical as the day of the race approaches.
It's already well-known that the ARCA Series runs one race each year on dirt, but one key difference is that their official tire sponsor is Hoosier, whom also makes a dirt track tire for the cars just for that event.
Goodyear could end up looking at it's competitors to see the kind of compound they use and then work that into their tire for the race.
Finally, the biggest concern for the Truck Series and this race is simple...how do you prepare. If any of the Camping World Truck Series drivers have dirt experience, they are at an advantage, but driving one of these trucks compared to a late model or sprint car is night and day, there's no comparison. That means the Truck Series will need to test either at Eldora or teams could try to test at different dirt tracks across the country, still adhering to the testing ban on sanctioned tracks.
This is possibly the most critical thing NASCAR will look into before the trucks come to the track, but with so much time to prepare, it's safe to say the sanctioning body will take a strong look at what to do and how to prepare for such an event.
One thing that NASCAR fans can agree on is this will be a momumental event, and is going to be one that fans of all NASCAR series or just the trucks will circle on their calendars to witness.
If you like dirt in your teeth, set the date to July 24, 2013, and strap in for a historic night in NASCAR.