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Bowyer Is Dreamy At Eldora

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, June 9 2011

The field at Wednesday night's Prelude To The Dream perform the four-wide salute to the fans on the parade lap at Eldora Speedway. (Photos by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images For True Speed Communications)


The top drivers in all of American motor sports got to drive their Dream cars on Wednesday night and all at the same time and on the same track.

And when the dust settled, Clint Bowyer had led all 30 laps in the Prelude to the Dream all-star dirt Late Model race at Eldora Speedway, but the native of Emporia, Kan., had to fend off strong charges from J.J. Yeley and Aric Almirola to finally capture a victory in the prestigious race that’s a who’s who of racing’s elite.

After finishing second in the past two Prelude to the Dream events, Bowyer sealed his first Prelude triumph by .531 of a second over Yeley, a former USAC champion who has logged numerous laps at Eldora.

“It’s just so much fun to be able to come here and compete,” said Bowyer, whose victory was presented live to the entire nation on HBO Pay-Per-View, with the net proceeds from the telecast supporting four of the nation’s top children’s hospitals. “What an awesome racetrack. I’ve always loved this place and

Clint Bowyer in Victory Lane at Eldora.

I’m very proud of Tony Stewart and everybody behind him that makes this event awesome. There’s a lot of hard work to put on something like this, and we are very lucky to have him put forth the effort.”

Stewart, owner of Eldora Speedway and a three-time Prelude victor, finished 20th in the race he created in 2005.

“We had another first-time winner tonight. That’s what the fun part is,” said Stewart, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. “Watching Marcos Ambrose win his heat race and Jason Leffler win his heat race in their first time being here – that’s the stuff that makes you smile, and it’s fun to watch all these guys have a good time.”

Yeley, the 2003 USAC Triple Crown winner, said his good starting spot paid off.

“I won the second hot lap group,” Yeley said. “We qualified pretty well. It seems, from the previous Preludes, the key to being good in the feature is just starting up front. The racetrack just got slippery and because there’s not a lot of experience out there, the racetrack doesn’t get very wide, which makes it very difficult to pass. I got a good start, got by Almirola and whoever started inside of me there and, for a while, I thought I had something for Clint, but he was just really good tonight. It beats going to any golf tournament any day of the week, and then some. Any time you can go play in the dirt, and for a good cause, it’s a thrill to just be here.”

Nationwide Series driver Aric Almirola finished third.

“To qualify sixth, to run second in my heat race and finish third in the feature, what an awesome night,” Almirola said. “Clint Smith brought me an awesome car and I had fun. From the time I got off the airplane, I had an absolute blast. I do every year, but when you run well, it makes it all that much

Tony Stewart adjusts his Dream car.

more fun. To come out here and run with so many guys with so much dirt experience, and this being my sixth race ever on dirt, this is just awesome. I think my best finish before was eighth, and I couldn’t even see the lead all night. So, tonight, to be able to see the lead and kind of dice it up and race with the leaders and maybe have a shot at winning if something happened to Clint and J.J., I felt like I had an honest shot at winning the race. That’s what every racecar driver dreams about and to come here to the Prelude with all these guys, that’s what I was hoping for.”

Kyle Busch finished fourth.

“It’s so hard to turn underneath somebody because all of the grip is up at the top, where it was fast,” Busch said. “Just had to ride and wait for a caution and try to make some moves there. We raced (Aric) Almirola, which was cool. Started racing with Justin Allgaier and we were slip-jobbing each other for a few corners. That was probably the most exciting part of the night for me. But, unfortunately, we just didn’t quite have enough. We ran in line there at the finish but nobody could get by each other.”

Last year’s winner, Jimmie Johnson, finished 18th this year.

“The track conditions were a lot different (than last year),” Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup champion, said. “These conditions take a little more experience. Last year was a little more forgiving and more grip. But I had a blast. Finally understood about how to pass some cars about 10 laps into it and started working my way forward. I had a great night.”

NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps is a veteran of the event and has learned how to make turns during the race.

“I can go high, I can go low,” Capps said. “I’m racing with Jimmie Johnson. I’ve got Carl Edwards around me, I’m almost passing guys like that. It was so much fun. I’m out here racing with guys I love to watch on TV. I finished fourth one year, but this one felt so much better. You know, it’s all courage if you can get up on the wall. I’m just not good enough to do that, so I tried it accidentally in the one heat, tore a little bit of the spoiler off. But the guys fixed it and had it ready to go. And after that, they did something to the car and they told me what the car was going to do and they were absolutely right. I’m loving this. I’m a drag racer who gets to race on dirt once a year like this. And, we’re raising money for kids. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Camping World Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr. was driving in his first Prelude. He said he had a decent time.

“Can we come back tomorrow and do it again?” Hornaday, who finished 26th, said. “This was such a great time. I just wish it didn’t take me so long to figure out how to get the car around the track. My brakes locked up there in the feature and I spun out. Other than that, I just tried to make smooth laps and had a really good time racing here. This place is really banked and I’m glad it was as slick as it was. I can’t imagine going around here at full speed. It was pretty special driving up to this place and seeing all the campers and people everywhere. That means a lot to all of us racers. When people come out and support a cause like this event, it makes you as a racer want to go out and put on your best performance.”

The race was a team event. There was still an individual race winner in Bowyer, but there was also a race within the race, with the field broken up into four teams, each representing a children’s hospital:

· Team Levine: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Bill Elliott, David Reutimann, Austin Dillon, Ray Evernham and Cruz Pedregon.

· Team Atlanta: Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Bowyer, Ken Schrader, David Gilliland, Leffler and Capps.

· Team St. Louis: Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, Ron Hornaday and Ricky Carmichael.

· Team Dallas: Stewart, Kanaan, Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers, Ambrose, Almirola and Yeley.

Each hospital received a donation, with the payout breakdown as follows:

· Winning team received 30 percent of net proceeds raised from the pay-per-view telecast.

· Second-place team received 25 percent of net proceeds raised from the pay-per-view telecast.

· Third- and fourth-place teams each received 20 percent of net proceeds raised from the pay-per-view telecast.

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, June 9 2011
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