Kyle Larson is probably the current NASCAR driver most associated with dirt track racing given his frequent dirt forays outside of the Cup Series schedule.
But Larson isn’t clamoring for the Cup Series to add a dirt track race to its 36-race schedule anytime soon.
“Well if a Cup race was there I would have to be there,” Larson said Friday. I don’t know, I mean [former Cup Series champion and Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart] is probably going to get mad, but I would like to see it just stay as it is. If anything, Xfinity, maybe, but I wouldn’t like to see Cup on dirt … Cup belongs on pavement and real road course tracks, but yeah, I don’t know.”
It’s understandable why Larson would hedge a little bit. His words could be considered sacrilege within the vocal community that thinks the Cup Series should race on dirt at least once or twice a season.
His words are also consistent. Larson said two years ago that he didn’t think the Cup Series should race on dirt.
The topic of a dirt race for the Cup Series is once again a thing after Wednesday night’s fun Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora. The Truck Series has raced at Eldora for six years now and is the only major NASCAR series that races on dirt. Stewart said earlier in the week that he wanted the Xfinity Series to come to Eldora, but the soonest that would happen would be 2020. And that’s if NASCAR is interested.
Eldora hosting a Cup race would be a departure from many of the places NASCAR currently has Cup Series races. And that has nothing to do with the track surface. Eldora is not in a heavily-populated area. At all. And its amenities are homey and modest. There would probably have to be some investment, though at the same time NASCAR could market an Eldora race as a return to Cup Series roots of sorts.
There’s also the issue of appeal. Wednesday night’s Truck race actually had fewer viewers than it did in 2017. Wednesday night’s race was held on the night after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game –typically one of the slowest nights in sports — for the first time. And it was on Fox Sports 1 instead of Fox Business Channel like the 2017 race was. Those two advantages didn’t turn into more viewers.
The number of people that watched Wednesday night’s race is approximately two-thirds of the audience that watched the season-opening Truck Series race at Daytona. A race that went against the Winter Olympics. Without jumping to conclusions on those two data points, it’s worth wondering if the appeal of a NASCAR dirt track race isn’t as widespread as some may think. And appeal has to be taken into consideration with every decision NASCAR makes about changes to its series.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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