Stars get dirty for Stewart's charity Dream
8 June 2011
Tony Stewart's annual Prelude to the Dream competition takes place on Wednesday evening, with 27 professional racers all trying their hand at late-model stock car racing on the Eldora Speedway dirt track owned by Stewart in Rossburg, Ohio.
The event raises money for children's charities across the US.
While the 2011 line-up is predominantly made up of NASCAR Cup, Nationwide and Truck drivers, it also includes IZOD IndyCar Series star Tony Kanaan and NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series drivers Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon. Instead of professional NASCAR-style vehicles, all drivers use regular 2300-pound, 800-horsepower late-model stock cars.
"We all enjoy racing and running in Tony's event without the pressure at a normal Cup event," said Jimmie Johnson, who won the event in 2010.
"We're able to really unwind postrace and just hang out. It's just shooting the breeze with drivers that you really don't ever get a chance to," he said, adding that he was yet to leave Eldora before 3am afterwards. "I joked with him that he needs to build like a little makeshift bar in the infield and make the winner of that night's event buy beer for everybody - and pizza!"
While primarily a team event - with the drivers split up representing four different charitable organisations - there is also an individual winner at the end of the night. Winners in previous years the individual winners of the events have been Kenny Wallace (2005), Carl Edwards (2007) and Tony Stewart himself (2006, 2008 and 2009) as well as Johnson last year.
The most consistent performer of late has been Clint Bowyer, who finished fifth in 2007, third in 2008 and second for the last two years - which means he should be about due for first place any day now.
"For the dirt late-model boys, that's their biggest race of the year," Bowyer said. "It's neat to get the best of the Cup world interacting and bench racing with the best of the dirt late-model world. It's just a fun atmosphere after the race."
Bowyer started in dirt tracks and owns and runs his own late model stock car dirt tracking team, as do Bobby Labonte and Cruz Pedregon. Bowyer's team is even providing the car for Johnson to drive as well as Bowyer himself.
The driver line-up consists of 27 drivers split into four teams representing a different charitable organisation. This year, all the organisations were children's hospitals around America:
Levine Children's Hospital: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Bill Elliott, David Reutimann, Austin Dillon, Ray Evernham and Cruz Pedregon
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Ken Schrader, David Gilliland and Ron Capps
St. Louis Children's Hospital: Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Justin Allgaier, Kenny Wallace, Ron Hornaday and Ricky Carmichael
Children's Medical Center Dallas: Tony Stewart, Tony Kanaan, Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola and Dave Blaney.
The winning team receives 30% of the revenue raised through HBO pay-per-view TV subscriptions, with 25% to the second-placed team and 20% to the remaining organisations.