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Prelude Continues to Shine

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009
Ryan Newman is running a Prelude to the Dream paint scheme on his No. 39 Chevy Impala SS during this weekend's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. (Photo Courtesy True Speed Communication)

Ryan Newman is running a Prelude to the Dream paint scheme during this weekend's Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega. (CIA Stock Photo)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Talladega, Ala. – By definition, a prelude is some event that comes before another, more important event.

But in the case of the annual “Prelude to the Dream” at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, the opener is becoming as big an event as the “Dream” dirt Late Model race it precedes.

This year’s race, the fifth annual, has a star-packed line-up of drivers from NASCAR’s top series and the NHRA. Stewart said Friday that there are now six to eight drivers on the waiting list to participate in the race, which will be carried live on HBO Pay-per-view, on June 3.

In the earliest Prelude days, Stewart struggled to get dirt car owners to bring cars for the NASCAR stars to drive. Now the drivers have gotten serious about it, building their own cars or making deals with established car owners and builders. Most slip off and practice ahead of time as well so they’ll be competitive in the hot laps, heat races and the 30-lap feature.

 And fans have been a big part of the event, packing the grandstands at Eldora or shelling out cash ($24.95 in most markets this year) to watch from home. The goal again is to raise $1 million, which this year will be directed to a program to help returning service personnel with serious injuries.

Drivers already signed on to race include, Stewart, the defending winner, his Sprint Cup teammate Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards, along with a bevy of their fellow NASCAR drivers. Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon from the NHRA will go from racing in straight lines to negotiating four corners of a high-banked dirt oval.

The growth and continued success of the event remains a source of amazement for Stewart.

“I’m absolutely shocked over the support for the event,” he said.

Stewart said he believes there’s a future for some sort of Prelude-like summer series, where Cup drivers could race short tracks during weeknights in mid-season.

 “I think in a perfect world I’d love to see a four- or five-race deal we’d all run,” he said, adding that events of that type make for a “night of no pressure” for the participants.

“It gives fans a chance to see us in atmosphere they never see us in,” he said. “It gets everybody out of their element a little bit. It lets us have fun.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2009
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