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NASCAR wants to return to Eldora

7/25/2013 - NASCAR Tony Stewart

INDIANAPOLIS -- NASCAR officials deemed Wednesday night's inaugural Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway enough of a success to warrant strong consideration to keep the dirt track owned by Tony Stewart a part of the schedule in 2014.

"Felt it over-delivered on everything they'd done,'' NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said Thursday. "Terrific turnout, really happy with how the competitors performed all night, so all in all, a great night for NASCAR and the sport.

"We'll take a look at it and have conversations with Tony ... and still want to go through the garage area and meet with team owners and competitors and get their feedback as well. And want to see the ratings. So far everything we've seen, it's something we'd certainly entertain doing again for 2014."

The race drew a 1.20 rating, making it the 10th-most watched Truck race ever on Speed, now Fox Sports, with 1.4 million total viewers, and the most-watched sports program for the day on cable.

O'Donnell, who played a key role in NASCAR's return to dirt in a national series for the first time in more than 40 years, said it would be premature to think other dirt tracks will be considered for the schedule moving forward.

He also ruled out the Nationwide Series racing at the Rossburg, Ohio, half-mile track next year.

"We've been trying to get to shorter tracks with the trucks in general,'' O'Donnell said. "You look at trucks and dirt, it felt more of a natural fit. Certainly, I think a Nationwide car could do that, but the focus has been trucks, and will continue to be for the near future to look at the Truck Series and keep that as a unique opportunity for them."

O'Donnell said the fan and social media response surpassed expectations. He noted 61-year-old Norm Benning was trending on Twitter when he earned the transfer spot into the main event in the "last chance'' race. Eldora also was trending at times during the night.

"The numbers were higher than any other truck race in our history; rivaled some Cup races,'' O'Donnell said of social media response. "Clearly the fans were engaged, which is terrific.

"Also contributing to the fact that was a unique event, so we want to make sure we keep it special.''

O'Donnell, however, said the enthusiasm shown for a midweek race might be considered for other events, including Nationwide and Cup.

"Certainly something we'll look at, sure,'' he said.

Race winner Austin Dillon was so excited that he suggested putting two races at Eldora next season.

O'Donnell said he heard from people he hadn't in a long time who were engaged, even when there was single-file racing that usually draws criticism.

"It was overwhelmingly positive all night long,'' he said. "I was surprised how much fans were engaged. Media, drivers really enjoyed it. It felt really good for the industry.''