It had been 43 years since Richard Petty piloted the No. 43 Plymouth to victory on the dirt surface of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It was the last time that one of NASCAR's national series compered on a dirt track.
That was until July 24, 2013, when Austin Dillon returned to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to win the 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic Presented by CNBC's Prime the Profit at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Less than a month after that historic Wednesday night, Dillon ventured to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., with his crew in tow to unveil the race-winning truck in the Great Hall. The exhibit will be on display for a limited time.
"It's so cool to be in here right now in the Hall of Fame," Dillon told Winston Kelley, who served as the emcee for the event, and the crowd gathered at the facility for the unveiling. "You know, these are all my heroes, so I'm sitting in here with these cars that I'm blown away by and to have one of the trucks at RCR put in here … it's a very special moment for all of our team at RCR."
In addition to the No. 39 American Ethanol Chevrolet he drove to Victory Lane at Eldora, the unique trophy Dillon received for winning and a jar filled with dirt he collected with a gold shovel the track provided shortly after the race are also part of the exhibit.
"The track was really hard, so it was kinda tough to get to shovel down in the dirt, but we got it out of there," said Dillon, the current NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader. "There is dirt inside the trophy, so on the way back in the car there was actually moisture got in the top of the dirt. So, we had to dry it out for a few days, but it's a great trophy. It's really cool."
Dillon, who grew up honing his racing skills at dirt tracks like Eldora, had competed on the half-mile track before in other series. In 2010, he won the pole for the World 100, a dirt late model race.
Dillon will pull double duty this weekend, racing at the inaugural Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio while also subbing for the injured Tony Stewart (who, coincidentally, owns Eldora) in the No. 14 Chevrolet in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Michigan.
When the idea was first mentioned to him about putting the truck on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he was a little taken aback that the hall would be interested in showcasing his vehicle -- just as it was at the end of the race. The decision to loan it to the hall, however, had already been made by the time he returned to the garage the following week.
"I walked in the truck shop on Monday and they already had a sticker right on the front -- I think it was my grandfather's handwriting '' that said 'Do not touch, this is going to the hall of fame.' So, I thought that was pretty special and it hadn't been touched since. It's still got the bear bond on the track from kissing the wall a few times and dirt all over it."