NASCAR has memorable night at Eldora Speedway

USA TODAY Sports

The Mudsummer Classic was enthralling and NASCAR’s first race at Eldora Speedway was an unquestioned success.

When NASCAR announced last November that the Camping World Truck Series would visit Eldora Speedway this season, the news was met with great enthusiasm.

However, the truth is, despite the excitement for NASCAR's first dirt race on a national scale in 42 years, no one really knew what to expect. Would the event be a crash-fest and highlight why NASCAR has avoided dirt tracks for four decades? Or would the drivers and trucks adapt and put on a show that would energize a fanbase and leave folks clamoring for more?

Despite the misgivings, the answer was obvious Wednesday.

Throughout the night, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and later Ryan Newman staged a terrific battle for the lead. Ultimately, Dillon prevailed because he was better -- and more aggressive -- working lapped traffic and was able to fend-off Larson and Newman on a couple of late restarts.

Any concerns that Eldora would turn into a glorified demo derby were eradicated when the first 90 laps of the feature were run with just a single caution (for debris) interrupting the proceedings. And overall, there was only a lone multi-car incident.

What also made Eldora grand was what didn't happen. There was no discussion of aero push, track position or fuel-mileage, all terms commonly associated with NASCAR in an era of parity and similarly built mile-and-a-half ovals. Both Dillon and Larson were able to charge from their 19th and 13th starting positions, respectively, with moxxy and shear force. Neither needed pit strategy to do so.

The only thing that mattered Wednesday was how fast your truck was and how willing a driver was to dance on the line of being out of control.

"It feels amazing," Dillon said. "Going into this week, I was just really focused on doing whatever it took to make sure we had a good show for the fans and NASCAR so we could come back again."

Mission accomplished.

While track owner Tony Stewart was noncommittal afterward, and NASCAR doesn't release its 2014 schedules until later in the year, there is little doubt whether the Truck Series will return to Eldora next season.

Using any gauge, the Mudsummer Classic was an unequivocal success. The grandstands were packed to capacity, the action lived up to its full potential and an audience at home was captivated by what transpired. (At one point Wednesday, the Mudsummer Classic and Eldora hashtags were the No. 5 and 7 trends on Twitter.)

If anything, Eldora may have been too big of a hit.

This weekend the Sprint Cup Series takes to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what is the sport's second-biggest event of the year.

Although Indy may be revered, the Brickyard 400 is frequently not all that thrilling. The 2.5-mile speedway was built for open-wheel cars and NASCAR has struggled to consistently produce the kind of racing befitting the No. 2 event on its calendar.

In all likelihood the talk this coming weekend will be more about the excitement of Eldora than the prestige of winning at Indy. As hard as it is to believe, the vaunted Mecca of motorsports has now become overshadowed by a half-mile dirt track in an Ohio cornfield.

But this isn't about what Eldora is and Indy isn't. This is how for one magical night, NASCAR returned to its roots and was reminded that the path to future success may lie in its past.

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