The Dirt Track

When Kris suggested we go ice skating on our first date I was very resistant. My wonderful parents paid for my sister and me to take ice skating lessons when we were younger. I never let go of the walker while I was skating! Needless to say, our first date was at a go kart track instead. However, I now understand that ice is slippery and land has grip. I needed this background knowledge to better experience the NASCAR Truck Race Series run on the Eldora dirt track on our television. The strategies employed in this race by the drivers were a lot like surviving on ice skates.

Reasons I Enjoyed This Particular Race*

  1. Eldora is such a beautiful name for a race track! I like to think about things while I watch the race, so I wondered about the story behind Eldora. Afterwards, a Google search showed that the name means “gift of the sun,” and that the track was built in 1954 by Mr. Baltes, a local musical man who was surprised that racing drew crowds. He must have been thinking about crowds because he already owned a ballroom, and ballrooms need crowds. It seems that the original Eldora Ballroom is now part of the track campus. Mr. Baltes must have figured if Eldora worked for a ballroom, the name would work for a race track. Tony Stewart, former NASCAR driver, now owns the track. (Initially, I thought Tony was the guy from the Wheaties box, but I must have got him mixed up with Tony the Tiger from Frosted Flakes. Click here to see what drivers actually have been featured on Wheaties boxes.) You can read more about the history of Eldora in this book.
  2. This is a special and challenging race for the truck series. Usually the trucks go on asphalt, so they are not typically as familiar with the tactics for doing well. The guy who won the race was actually racing at a modified dirt track on the off weekends to improve his skills. It made me think of the latest Cars movie too when Lightning McQueen uses unconventional methods, including a demolition derby at a dirt track, to prepare for an upcoming race.
  3. Since it is made out of dirt, the track changes dramatically throughout the race. Several times throughout the race, the cameras zoomed in on the floor of the track to show how it was changing. The track changes throughout the race for asphalt with dirt and heat, but it is not as noticeable. The parts with more grip in the dirt are called the cushion. Driving in the cushion can push you forward, but it can also dangerously suck you into the wall. The grip part moves throughout the race so the drivers have to constantly change their strategy. Kris described the cushion to me by comparing it to ice skating**. You can go really fast on the ice (slick part of the track), but you can get more grip and control if you go in the snow (the cushion of the track).
  4. Dirt was everywhere! It was kicking up into the air and clinging to crew chief’s faces. The television featured shots of drivers cleaning their windows with something that looked like a Swiffer. This was just hilarious to me. Maybe it’s because I have a few cleaning jobs this summer or maybe it is because I was respecting that the drivers were trying to keep their cars clean so they could perform better. Everything was getting inevitably and terribly dirty! Kris pointed out that I probably wouldn’t like being there in person because the fans get dirty too….
  5. Finally, the announcers used new words to describe the group of drivers on the track. For example, twice they said, “Look at the gaggle of cars!” They also referred to the cars as a wad. I’m not sure if this is due to it being a dirt track or the truck series or due to nothing at all. Maybe these are racing terms I just haven’t picked up on yet. All the words brought to mind were a bunch of turkeys chewing wads of gum!

*Please gently correct my race knowledge in the comments as needed! I’m still a rookie fan, especially with dirt tracks!

**If you are interested in thinking more about placing race cars on ice, check out this cool documentary: Formula E: Ice Drive. Regardless of your political view on global warming, this film shows the creative teamwork that went into placing an F1 car on ice. Start about minute 50 if you are looking just for the car driving on the ice cap.

 

 

Featured Image from Pixabay

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