Motorsports has many crown jewel events. The 24 hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500, Monaco Grand Prix, Daytona 500, The Kings Royal, Bathurst 1000, Baja 1000, The Chili Bowl, etc.
I mean, I could go on, but I had a question. What makes a race a crown jewel event?
Is it the culmination of history tied to the event? The purse paid to the winner? Is it the names that have taken the checkered flag, or is it about the names that continue to participate in the race? Does the track have anything to do with it? Is it the upward trajectory that a driver’s career could take if they win the event?
A culmination of some/all of the above?
I ask this because on Thursday, starting at 6 pm central time on FS1, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series will race their annual Dirt Derby on the famed half-mile dirt oval of Eldora Speedway. That’s right. I said the words NASCAR, race, and dirt in the same sentence. This year will be the seventh edition of the race, and I do believe that this race is becoming a crown jewel on the NASCAR schedule.
Maybe, more importantly, it is becoming a crown jewel amongst high-level dirt racers. Drivers like Ken Schrader, Kyle Stickler “The High Side Tickler,” Jeff Abby, Justin Shipley, and Stewart Friesen have participated in previous years. Several of these drivers will race again this year. Image if one of these drivers do well at this event? Their exposure within the sport grows tenfold.
Ask Christopher Bell about that after his 2015 win with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Will it ever be as big as the current NASCAR crown jewels of The Daytona 500, The Southern 500, or The Coca-Cola 600? No, there is too much history, but that doesn’t mean that this race can’t develop a history. One can argue that it already has.
I get excited thinking about the positive exposure that dirt racing will get because of the Dirt Derby. The grandstands will be filled to the brim with not just NASCAR fans, but dirt racing fans. Dust will be in the air, sparks will fly, and the golden shovel that goes to the winner will find a new place to call home.
I hope that home will be with one of these dirt racers that are trying to prove their worth to the enclosed world of NASCAR.
photo credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images