There’s a lot of talk this week about tonight’s MudSummer Classic Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway. And frankly, we can’t wait to see it! We have a reference for the must-see show, but it NSFB (Not Safe for Blog, no, not even this blog.)
As the spotlight grows even brighter with the influx of fans and media to the Ohio dirt track, questions are being raised about the infamous Eldora Love Tunnel (AKA: The Eddie Gossage Tunnel). Less about the tunnel really, and more about the “AKA” part. Why is Eddie Gossage’s name on it? Well, it was a result of a $3 million deal. Yes, you read that correctly. THREE MILLION DOLLARS. That’s a hell of a naming rights deal.
No, we didn’t pay 3 million for a $12 plaque, well… not really. The story goes kind of like this:
Once upon a time, there was a track that had a couple of traffic issues (For the record, those have been fixed!! Don’t start.) There was also a driver who was coming from an appearance and REALLY needed to get to the infield at said track for a very important meeting. A NASCAR Driver’s Meeting. This driver, who also owns Eldora Speedway, was stuck in traffic on Texas Motor Speedway property.
**We pause our story here to tell you that the penalty for missing a NASCAR Driver’s Meeting is that the driver must start at the rear of the field. It helps explain the next part of the story.**
This driver is known to have a fiery temper when incited by the asking of repetitive (read: stupid) questions or blocked (if you haven’t figured it out yet, allow us…**cough** Tony Stewart). This traffic might as well have been the block of all blocks and since it would be frowned upon to start wrecking our guests, he showed tremendous self-control and called Eddie. Tony then tossed his self-control out the window and proceeded to tear into Eddie as though he was a member of the media who had asked for the seventh week in a row, “What did you have for breakfast and how do you think it will affect how the car runs today?”.
We won’t get any further into the Stewart v. Gossage bout (although that does give us an idea…) but it did result in building a bridge to ease traffic on property and make the infield more accessible. It cost $3 million dollars to build and in honor of the above referenced incident, Eddie attempted to get the last word by naming the bridge, “The Tony Stewart Bridge”. In true Smoke form, he got the final word, hence the $12 plaque on the Love Tunnel at Eldora Speedway.
Pressing the Restart Button in 2013
After a tough second half of last season for both Turn One Racing and myself, 2013 was set up as a year of fresh starts. Losing sponsorship at the beginning of the year in 2012, Turn One Racing left NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition, and after July 2012, I was watching from home as well and looking for better opportunities. Fortunately, I think we’ve both found it this year and I’m really pleased with our plans to run the entire NCWTS season with the No. 60 WinField Chevrolet Silverado.
In the offseason I signed a multi-year contract with Richard Childress Racing, and we decided to partner up with Turn One Racing to run the entire NCWTS season. With WinField backing us, it was going to be the perfect chance for the team and myself to rebuild with a solid, consistent year of competition. I’ll get some extra experience too in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, running five races for RCR. I’ve already run two of those, at Auto Club Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, and both races I thought we had great cars, just didn’t have the luck at the end to produce a finish that showed it.
In case you didn’t know, former driver and veteran of the sport, Stacy Compton, is part owner in Turn One Racing and has been a huge help to me so far this season. He’s been acting not only as an owner, but as a driving coach too, helping me learn quicker at tracks that I haven’t been to before or with anything that’s been a challenge. His knowledge of the sport and driving skills have really helped me improve and I’m looking forward to leaning on him as the season goes forward.
My crew chief at Turn One, Gere Kennon, has also been around for a long time in the racing world and has given me some great trucks in the first six races of the season. Our relationship with RCR is really helpful too, because they’re basically like extended teammates. We have engineering help and ECR engines that have really stepped up my level of competition. It’s really been a great relationship so far, and I think our goals of running consistent each week and steadily improving our finishes is easily attainable.
Looking forward I think there will be a lot of curve balls thrown at us this year. There are still a few tracks that I haven’t been to before since I haven’t run a full season yet, so it’s going to be up to me to get up to speed quickly so we don’t have to spend all weekend learning. I think there’s a lot of hype around the dirt race at Eldora, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that race plays out and we’ll definitely need to make sure we’re up in the point standings before getting there. I really enjoy road course racing so I’m looking forward to going to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park; I’ve already run some races on the simulator though and I know it’s going to be super challenging for everyone.
For Texas this weekend, I’m really hoping we can put last weekend’s struggle at Dover behind us and gain back the points we lost. I know Texas Motor Speedway has aged some over the past few years but I remember how fast it was and how great the racing is. I know the trucks will put on an exciting show, so I’m ready to get racing under the lights on Friday night and hope the No. 60 WinField Chevy will be up front mixing it up for the win.