NASCAR still is "evaluating its first dirt race in more than 40 years," but Senior VP/Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell "strongly indicated" Thursday the Camping World Truck Series Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway will return, according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. O'Donnell said, "We felt it overdelivered on everything. It was a terrific turnout, and we were really happy with how the competitors performed, so all in all a great night for NASCAR and the sport." He added, "So far everything we've seen, it's something we'd certainly entertain doing again for 2014." O'Donnell said that NASCAR Fan Engagement Center data shows Eldora "drew a record social media response for a truck race." He added that there was "no imminent plan to put the Nationwide or Cup series on dirt, but that it might be feasible." O'Donnell compared Eldora's place in NASCAR with the NHL's Winter Classic and said that there had been "no discussions with other dirt tracks about hosting a NASCAR national series" (USA TODAY, 7/26). ESPN.com's David Newton noted race winner Austin Dillon was "so excited that he suggested putting two races at Eldora next season." O'Donnell said, "It was overwhelmingly positive all night long. I was surprised how much fans were engaged. Media, drivers really enjoyed it. It felt really good for the industry" (ESPN.com, 7/25). Sprint Cup Series driver and Eldora Owner Tony Stewart said, "I don’t know what the financials will be on this deal, but I don’t care. To me, to see everybody have a good time, that was worth it" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/25).
KEEP IT SIMPLE: ESPN's Ricky Craven said there is a "great opportunity ... for a Sprint Cup race on dirt" because Wednesday's truck race was "so entertaining." But he cautioned, "We don’t need to get too excited. There's plenty of time and it comes down to the fans. If they applaud, absolutely. This is what this is about. It's about satisfying the customer" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 7/26). However, Fox NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip in a special wrote, "It was a special event, and we simply need to keep it that way. Already folks are saying, 'Well, what about doing it in the Nationwide Series or what about doing it in the Cup series?'” Waltrip: "No, you don’t want to do that, because when you start doing more and more of those types of events, they become commonplace and they simply aren’t special anymore" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/25).
CAUTION FLAGS AHEAD: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes NASCAR Chair Brian France "faces challenges, led by declining attendance at many of NASCAR’s events." The Brickyard 400 is Sunday, but the race has been hit by "sagging attendance" in recent years. France said, "You have to look at attendance across all sports and depending on which league you’re talking about, there are attendance challenges. Virtually no one is (immune). ... With respect to Indy, I think you have to look at No. 1, there still will be a huge crowd; No. 2, they’ve gone through a tremendous amount of transition the past several years. All of that has an impact. France noted NASCAR does not want to "see empty seats, a little or a lot." But he noted Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a "huge amount of seats, so even if there’s a lot of empty ones, there’s still a big crowd." Asked about IMS staying on the NASCAR schedule, France said, "They’ve been (on the schedule) 20 years and (IMS) has been tremendously positive for the series, so I don’t anticipate that they -- or us -- would ever want to change that. But listen, they’ve got some work to do on some things; they’ve declared that and we agree with them. We’ll have to see how it all turns out" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/26). USA TODAY's Jeff Gluck writes the crowd for this year's Brickyard is "expected to be at an all-time low for the event." Is it "time for NASCAR to consider moving its annual Indy trip to another track?" Gluck: "Heck no. While attendance might be down, it's still the Brickyard." The NASCAR races at IMS "are mostly boring." They look like "high-speed, single-file parades with little passing and even fewer lead changes." But just "being at IMS is worth the trip" (USA TODAY, 7/26).