ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Austin Dillon was the first to ply Eldora Speedway's half-mile dirt expanse in a NASCAR race truck in October in a clandestine test conducted by NASCAR. On Tuesday, he was first out onto the moistened earth again in the initial Camping World Truck Series practice session preceding NASCAR's first excursion off pavement in 43 years.
Now Dillon would like the chance to take one of his Nationwide cars onto the slick banks of a grassroots short track, specifically Eldora. And he's not alone. NASCAR officials, however, want to assess the quality of competition in the Truck series event on Wednesday before even considering another such major leap, although NASCAR senior vice president Steve O'Donnell conceded, "a lot of folks didn't think we would do this in trucks, so I never say never to anything."
For now, Dillon can hope.
"It's awesome, man," said Dillon, who is third in the Nationwide Series standings, eight points off the lead heading into the Saturday race (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I'm so happy NASCAR and [Eldora owner and Sprint Cup driver] Tony Stewart came up with this deal, and I'm hoping we could see more of them."
O'Donnell stressed patience and tempered expectations even though the series has been seeking short-track avenues for three years. The series and Eldora officials were able to make the truck event feasible with alterations to both the race vehicles and facility. "We obviously want to see how this goes," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell anticipates a return of the Truck series to Eldora and perhaps other short tracks if the Wednesday event is deemed a success -- "If it works, and Tony will have us, I would certainly see us going back" -- which could provide the series with the grassroots entry point it desires without another experiment in another series.
"I think we take a week to digest everything, but certainly it would open up some additional opportunities for us," O'Donnell said. "We wanted to make sure our Truck series drivers are comfortable on dirt. Honestly, it's been a big success in terms of advance ticket sales. It sold out quickly. So now it's our job to put on a great event, and from there we'll look at what other great opportunities might be out there and what's the balance that works for our schedule. Certainly, from a Truck series perspective, we want to pursue additional short tracks, but it could open up avenues across the board there."
Another type of car would present another slate of variables. NASCAR trucks produce 650 horsepower -- the same as Nationwide cars -- and weigh 50 pounds less. Sprint Cup cars produce 850 horsepower and weight 100 pounds less than the trucks.
Dillon said he thinks NASCAR could formulate competitive stock cars for a dirt track, as it did by making minor modifications to the grille and rear spoilers of the trucks that compete on pavement. Running around three dirt-track races a season, he said, would make the regimen a part of the championship that drivers and teams would have to master, like road course racing.
"For sure I think we'd get it figured out," Dillon said. "I think we still have a lot of learning to do in the first one. So we take our time and learn about it, and it would get better and better."
Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman, competing in a Turner Scott Motorsports entry on Wednesday night at Eldora, agreed that further discussion of a stock car race on a dirt track "all depends on what kind of a show we put on."
But, he added, "I'm all for it."
Nationwide Series rookie Kyle Larson, who won the 4-Crown USAC championship at Eldora in 2011 and still competes often in dirt sprint cars, surmised that Sprint Cup cars would do better than their Nationwide counterparts on dirt because of their greater horsepower. He doubts he'll ever see his theory tested.
"I think it would make for even better racing," he said. "I doubt we would ever see the Sprint Cup Series on dirt, but I think it would produce pretty good racing, especially here."
Good idea, Dillon said. He believes Eldora would be a fitting site for the highly hypothetical next evolution of NASCAR's top-three-series dirt dalliance.
"Eldora's already made the leap and have the facilities you need to have to have a NASCAR-sanctioned event, so this would be a good one," he said.