Roger Slack finds himself in the busy middle of one of the biggest NASCAR stories in recent history.
Slack is the general manager of Eldora Speedway, the half-mile dirt track that will become a motorsports capital of sorts this summer.
On July 24, Eldora, located in Rossburg, OH, will host the Camping World Truck Series, marking the first time a major NASCAR series has raced on dirt since September 1970, when the Cup series left clay behind.
Slack has six months to prepare for dozens of truck haulers and team and NASCAR support vehicles, the influx of national television and radio, probably his biggest crowd of journalists ever and a crowd that will test the speedway’s infrastructure.
The race already is close to a sellout. Only a few hundred reserved seat tickets and about 1,000 general admission tickets for the track’s grassy hillside remain available. Slack is expecting a crowd of between 20,000 and 22,000 and said he probably could swell twice that many tickets if the track had available seating and parking.
Parking is somewhat limited near the track in the summer because – and this is not an excuse at many speedways – adjacent farm fields will still be covered with hay.
“This is rural Ohio,” said Slack of the track, which is located on State Road 118, not exactly a major thoroughfare. “We can’t park cars on fields where there’s hay. And we’re not going to add seats. It’s not fair to the fans to overload them on traffic.”
Although SAFER barriers will not be added to the track for the Truck event, numerous other changes are planned. The track’s pit entry and pit exit will be modified, as will other access areas that allow pedestrians to cross the racing surface. The track’s press box will be converted to allow for separate radio and television broadcasts of the event.
Officials will add three more scoring loops.
The race format has not been determined, but Slack said the race evening will unfold in much the same fashion as other Eldora events – with qualifying, heat races and a feature. There will not be traditional pit stops.
The breadth of ticket sales illustrates the vivid interest in the race. Slack said tickets have been sold in 48 states (with the exceptions of Montana and Hawaii) and seven Canadian provinces. He said about 70 percent of the ticket-buyers will be first-time visitors to Eldora.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.