Stewart has big things in mind for Eldora
July 23, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart helped bring the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to the dirt a year ago. Now he and his staff are taking measures to make sure all forms of motorsports benefit from the half-mile facility for years to come.
If that includes the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, so be it, Stewart said.
Stewart and Eldora promoter Roger Slack announced an expansion project that will transform the dirt track's infield, including upgraded concessions and restrooms, plus dedicated medical center and media center facilities. In doing so, the three-time Sprint Cup champion said attracting NASCAR's premier and second-tier divisions to the Western Ohio track would be a dream come true.
"This is part of the continued process of us making the commitment to keep improving the facility and making it bigger and better every year," Stewart said Wednesday afternoon before the second running of the 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic. "We hope we continue to have this event every year and I'm going to throw it out there, I'd love for the truck series to not be the only NASCAR series that comes here. If this continues to go as well as we hope it does, there's no reason that the other two divisions couldn't possibly come in the future.
"That's not what we're planning for, but we're very open-minded that as well as the truck race went last year and if it goes as well as I think it will tonight, it's definitely something we want to make sure we're doing the right steps for."
Stewart said that the infield expansion plans were long in the making and were not intended to be an overture toward potentially expanding NASCAR's calendar of events at Eldora. The project is expected to be complete by spring 2015.
In terms of perhaps following the truck series' lead with a midweek race day, Stewart said he was open to any and all possibilities.
"I can run on whatever night they want to run on," Stewart said. "They can pick. We'll run on whatever night they choose. I think we can make it work. If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup cars, the Nationwide cars aren't a big stretch from that. It's definitely feasible to do that; it's just a matter of if that's something the want to do.
"We're very appreciative and very content if we only run truck races from here on out. If we get the privilege to keep hosting truck races, we're very happy doing that. If the opportunity presents itself down the road to have Nationwide or a Cup race ... I don't think anyone in short-track racing would be able to top that. I think that would be the ultimate crowning achievement for a short-track promoter to be able to do that and pull it off."
Stewart has already pulled off a historic first, bringing a NASCAR national series event to a dirt track for the first time since 1970. The roaring success of the inaugural truck race here was just another feather in the cap of the Eldora, which was built by Earl Baltes in 1954 and rose to prominence as one of the premier dirt tracks in the country for its aptitude in hosting star-studded, big-money events.
Stewart, who took ownership of the track in 2004, said the expansion project would continue Eldora's tradition of grand-scale ideas.
"We've got a lot of big things in mind," Stewart said. "This is something that I look at not as an investment; this is something that I look at, this is a personal project for me. This is something that we will continue to re-invest as much as we can into this facility and keep the tradition and this history of this facility alive and thriving as long as we can."
Said Slack: "It'll be a significant investment, but will be a significant improvement and will stay the very same height of the existing building so it will not affect the fans or the grandstand sight lines in any way. We're really excited about this. This is probably the second-biggest undertaking since building the suites. Looking forward to starting work on it."