The eighth annual Prelude To The Dream on Wednesday, June 6 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, will feature two races within the all-star dirt Late Model race that benefits Feed The Children
A band of brothers will wheel 2,300-pound dirt Late Model stock cars capable of putting out more than 800 horsepower around the half-mile Eldora oval. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch will vie for the win and bragging rights among themselves, as will Austin and Ty Dillon, who compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, respectively.
While the brothers have raced against each other numerous times, they’ve never raced against each other in the Prelude To The Dream, where the top-10 finishers will get a tractor-trailer filled with food from Feed The Children delivered to their hometown or city of choice.
Kurt Busch’s only Prelude appearance came in 2006, and while Kyle Busch has been a Prelude regular, his first Prelude start wasn’t until 2007. Austin Dillon made his Prelude debut last year, and Ty Dillon makes his first Prelude start this year.
“Kyle has done really well in the Prelude and it’s been awhile since I’ve run it,” says Kurt, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion. “I feel like he has the upper hand, for sure, and he’s definitely going to make it tough on me to get advice.”
“Kurt’s always been a good dirt racer,” Kyle counters. “We’ve raced Dwarf cars against each other and Legends cars on dirt, and it’s always fun to race like that. It’s a charity race and it’s for a very good cause with Feed The Children, but Kurt and I are going to get after it. We both want that trophy.”
The Dillon brothers have a wealth of dirt-track experience between them. In fact, as the duo began their climb up the racing ladder, much of their racing took place on dirt.
“We love racing on dirt. Really, it’s where we got our start,” says Austin Dillon, the 2011 Truck Series champion and grandson of championship-winning NASCAR team owner Richard Childress. “We got a later start in the sport than a lot of people because we focused on stick-and-ball sports as kids. I played in the Little League World Series in 2002 and Ty was always into football, but once we tried our first race, we were hooked. Now Ty and I try to race in 25-50 dirt races a year. Shane and Sara McDowell run our dirt team, Team Dillon Racing, and they’ve been really influential in our racing development. I think Ty and I both have the same amount of experience in dirt cars.”
“We both started racing dirt about the same age,” adds Ty Dillon, currently third in Truck Series points and handily leading the rookie of the year standings. “I don’t think you could say one has more experience than the other on dirt. I remember Pop Pop (Childress) telling us when we wanted to start racing to give him a call. We saw a Bandolero race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and we both wanted to try it, so we called Pop Pop and he arranged a test for us and we’ve been racing ever since.”
So, who’s the better dirt-track racer among the Dillon brothers?
Ty says, “I am, of course.” And Austin, predictably, thinks otherwise. “I’m the better dirt driver,” he says.
Despite the brotherly one-upmanship, the Dillon brothers form a formidable duo on the track.
“Ty and I help each other a lot. Mainly, we push each other,” Austin says. “If I’m competing against Ty, I’m going to try harder because we have a brotherly competition. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we’re going to race each other and try to win.”
To get that win, the Dillon boys collaborate on setups, racing lines and anything else that will give them an advantage on the rest of the field.
“I know that if I have a question or need help with something, I can go ask Austin and he’ll help me out,” Ty says. “We both have different driving styles when it comes to dirt racing. He’s a little better in some areas, and I’m a little better in other areas. Together, we make a pretty good driver.
“We’re both really competitive and both really want to win. We’ll fight to the end to get the win, but if I can’t win, I want to see Austin do well and win. We’ll be teammates for life because we’re not only brothers, but best friends. That doesn’t stop us from chasing each other to the finish line.
“We’ve learned a lot from each other racing against one another over the years. Austin said it’s a lot of fun to race at Eldora. I’ve been watching races there for a long time. Can’t wait to finally race there.”
In terms of experience in the Prelude To The Dream, Kyle Busch leads the band of brothers and knows what to expect on the high banks of Eldora.
“The first year I remember the track was really tacky and you could move all over the place,” Kyle says. “And then it kind of glazed over and you still raced all over the place. The last couple years it’s been more single-file. You get up along the outside and it’s kind of only one-groovish. I try to make the bottom work and make up ground, but momentum is just so important around the top side, so you try to pull some slide jobs on some guys and get down low, and then slide up in their groove. Then they’ll come back and they’ll slide you in the next corner. It’s fun racing, and it’s just a part of what you’ve got to do in order to get up front.”
Kyle’s best Prelude finish is second in 2007, but he’s always been in contention, running with the leaders throughout the race.
“I’ve been close a few years,” Kyle says. “I want to win everything that I get in, and the Prelude’s been eluding me. I thought I had a chance to win it in 2007. Me, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards were coming to the line, all side by side. Missed out there. A couple other years have been close, and it would mean a lot to get my first win there. I’m looking forward to that day and, hopefully, it’s this year.”
To get that win, Kyle will have to outduel his brother Kurt, who despite limited experience in the Prelude To The Dream, has a strong understanding of what it takes to sling a Late Model around Eldora.
“The way that you have to have the car sideways, but still understand how to generate forward bite – it’s an art and it’s a balance,” says Kurt. “The dirt Late Models are so big, yet you have to race so close to the other cars. You do it like figure skaters would – they’re just in a pair and they run sideways through the corners. The thing I remember from the last time I was at Eldora is that you could have the right-rear (tire) rubbing the flagstand if you weren’t careful. It’s a whole different game on how you have to balance it out.
“I’m running for MasterSbilt and I feel like it’s my best attempt to go racing at Eldora and do something special. These guys at MasterSbilt have done a great job with their cars over the years and, right now, I think they’re one of the hottest teams in dirt racing.”