Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Prelude to the Dream back at Eldora tomorrow
By Mike Ernst
The Prelude to the Dream returns to Eldora Speedway on Wednesday night and while many things remain unchanged about the charity event, fans will see one major change this year.
Not only will the 26 combatants from NASCAR and the NHRA be fighting for the prestigious individual win this year they will also compete as a team.
The money raised from the first five races of The Prelude to the Dream was donated to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and then last year four military hospitals reaped the rewards of nearly one million dollars. This year's event will raise money for four children's hospitals, with the winning team earning the most money for their respective children's hospital.
"We tried to figure out how we could make everybody in the field and everybody's position count in the race," track owner and three-time Prelude winner, Tony Stewart said. "So having a team concept of four different teams and trying to handicap the teams, where you've got guys who have run really well year after year and guys who have struggled and not necessarily had good luck, we're making sure we keep these teams as even as possible but knowing that, depending on which team wins the event, it's extra money toward that particular charity of the four charities. So it's just adding a different element that makes everybody's position in the race count."
The four hospitals receiving the money raised from the event are Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Cincinnati Children's, Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.
Representing Team Riley will be Clint Bowyer (captain), Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, 2005 Prelude winner Kenny Wallace, Justin Allgaier and Ron Capps, driving the car owned by local owners Bill Dues and Chuck Sanning.
Team Cincinnati will be Kasey Kahne (captain), Joey Logano, Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott and Cruz Pedragon.
Kyle Busch is the captain of Team Levine and his teammates for the event will be Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, David Reutimann, Dave Blaney, Marcos Ambrose and Travis Pastrana.
The St. Jude team is made of Denny Hamlin (captain), 2007 winner Carl Edwards, Ken Schrader, Aric Almirola, Ricky Carmichael, Tony Kanaan and Ray Evernham.
"Children's charities are one of the main focuses of my own foundation, so to represent St. Jude, it couldn't be more appropriate to be the team captain for them" Hamlin said. "A lot of our money from our foundation actually goes to St. Jude. So, one way or another, we're going to be able to help out a lot of kids."
The lowest team score wins, and only the top five drivers from each team will be scored. For example, if Team Riley has finishes of first, fourth, seventh, 11th and 18th, respectively, from its top-five drivers, its score will be 41. In the event of a tie, the sixth driver will be scored.
The winning team will receive 45 percent of the money raised, while the second-place team will receive 25 percent of the money. The third and fourth-place teams will each receive 15 percent of the net money raised.
"I've never done a team event like this. We've had team races, where we shared the same car and three or four people drove, but not an event where the guys you're competing against, some of those guys are actually on your team," Stewart said. "I don't know if we'll all be smart enough to be able to remember who's on each other's team while we're out there and trying to take care of each other. But the one thing we will be able to do is, at the end of the night, know that not only do we have a race winner, but we also have the team winners, too."
The other drivers are also excited about the new format, which is one that many drivers have no experience with.
"I think it's pretty neat with the team concept, because now we get to participate, not just as one driver, but with a team of drivers that is going to be put together in order to try to beat the other teams," said Busch, the 2007 runner-up. "So you're never going to know exactly which team wins until you get down to the end, knowing there are so many different variables within this race."
"It's definitely a new element, for sure. It's tough for me to go to a racetrack and pull for somebody else I'm going be racing against, but we're definitely going be looking at our teammates," Hamlin said. "I really don't think I ever have been in a team race before, so I might have that list actually on my dash so I make sure I don't take those guys out. I think the most important thing is you don't want to be the guy who drags the team down, so you've got to finish the race. That's important."
There are still a handful of tickets remaining for the event, which has sold out in each of its first five years. The ticket office will open on Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m., while the gates for the Prelude to the Dream will open at 8 a.m.
Pre-race activities begin at 5:30 p.m. with the qualifying draw on the victory lane stage, while the first warm-up session will hit the track just after 6:15 p.m. Additional practice laps and qualifying will precede the heat races which are scheduled to begin at 8:45 p.m..
Fans not able to make it to Eldora on Wednesday night can watch the event on HBO Pay-Per-View. Contact you cable provider for details.