At least half of FOX Sports’ broadcast team for Wednesday’s NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race at Eldora Speedway, Tony Stewart’s half-mile dirt track, has extensive dirt-racing experience.
NASCAR stars and veteran dirt aces Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson make their FOX NASCAR broadcasting debuts Wednesday during FS1’s live, full-day coverage, culminating with the race telecast at 9:00 PM ET. Larson offers analysis from the FOX Sports television booth alongside Vince Welch and Michael Waltrip, while Bell teams with Hermie Sadler, former NASCAR driver and 1988 World Karting Association champion (on dirt), and fellow dirt-racing legend Kenny Wallace to cover pit road.
Bell, the reigning Truck Series champion, won the Chili Bowl Nationals championship in 2017 and 2018 and the 2013 USAC National Midget championship. Additionally, he went to victory lane in the 2015 NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES race at Eldora. Larson took the honors in 2016 and also won the 2011 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora, becoming just the second driver in history to win in all three types of USAC cars in a single night. He also earned the 2011 Belleville Midget Nationals championship.
Wallace, a FOX Sports reporter and two-time winner at Eldora, won the 2005 Prelude to the Dream and has competed at Eldora annually ever since. Renowned for “racing anything and everything,” he is scheduled to drive the No. 36 Toyota DIRTcar in more than 60 dirt races across the country this year, scaling back a bit from last year’s 80 to afford himself more family time. Last weekend (July 14-15), Wallace was north of the border, racing at Riverside International Speedway in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Before he hits the airwaves on FS1, Wallace has a date with the dirt at the clay oval, climbing behind the wheel Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, he’ll jump out of his race car and straight into a FOX Sports polo for his broadcasting duties.
In the Q&A below, FOX Sports catches up with Wallace for his take on everything Eldora, as well as his advice for Bell and Larson:
FOX SPORTS: You have enjoyed quite a bit of success at Eldora, including wins in the 2005 Prelude to the Dream and an A-main, and have more than a dozen starts there. What about Eldora suits your driving style so much?
Wallace: “Eldora is what we call ‘momentum racing’ in the dirt world. Ninety-five percent of dirt racing is bullring racing where you go down the straightaway, use the brakes, toss the car in the corner, turn around and come back. Eldora is unique because you always have to keep speed up and use very little brakes, if none at all. I have been successful there because I grew up on momentum racing on asphalt in ASA. The people who are the best there keep their car straight all the time -- they don’t try to get it sideways. Sideways is bad at Eldora.”
FOX SPORTS: What’s the most challenging aspect of driving a truck at Eldora?
Wallace: “A truck is an incredibly hard vehicle to drive there because it doesn’t have really wide tires. In the dirt racing world, you can do whatever you want with your chassis, within reason. But in NASCAR, you are limited in what you can do. You do what you can with the chassis and then adapt as a driver. When you run really high against the wall in the truck, it provides good momentum and keeps your speed up. The key is to run high and maintain momentum, but don’t hit the wall so badly that you destroy your truck.”
FOX SPORTS: How does a driver achieve success at Eldora?
Wallace: “The driver who will be successful at Eldora is one who is able to adapt well and goes in prepared. A few years ago, I started seeing Matt Crafton at dirt tracks in Kentucky. He told me he loves dirt racing and wanted to get prepared because he knew he would have to run Eldora in the truck. There’s so much to learn. It paid off when he won last year – running right through the middle of the track. He put a lot of effort in it. If you go into Eldora and don’t want to be there, you won’t be any good. It’s no different than Bristol or a road course – you better like it or you won’t be good. I’ve seen great asphalt drivers study, learn, adapt and win at Eldora. But you don’t just show up unprepared and win.”
FOX SPORTS: Should the MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES have a dirt race on the schedule?
Wallace: “One year ago on SiriusXM Radio, I said times have changed and NASCAR probably needs to consider it. Who would have ever thought we would see a dirt track inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway or a ‘roval’ at Charlotte? So many of us started out racing on dirt, so it would only make sense to give it a shot. If NASCAR doesn’t, it risks falling behind. Times have changed in such crazy ways, and we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over. It’s time to shake things up.”
FOX SPORTS: Who is your pick to win at Eldora?
Wallace: I believe there are some names coming – Stewart Friesen is incredible in the Super DIRTcar Series. There’s Kyle Strickler, who is very good at Eldora. Mike McLaughlin’s son, Max, is young and talented. There is some new talent this year that should make folks take notice, but to be the man, you have to beat the man. [Matt] Crafton has been running dirt lately and won last year.”
FOX SPORTS: If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer at Eldora, what would it be?
Wallace: “Do not drive terribly fast. You will be amazed by how little throttle you need to give it. You can actually win by pushing the throttle only halfway. The track is incredibly slippery, so don’t think your truck will hook up and go fast. You will be amazed by how fast your truck will go with minimal throttle.”
FOX SPORTS: What will be the biggest challenge for Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell moving from the driver’s seat to a broadcasting role at Eldora?
Wallace: “My advice to them would be don’t change. Just be yourself. Don’t try to be a TV guy. Talk like a dirt racer and give fans dirt-racing lingo. Just do what you normally do and the fans will appreciate and enjoy it. They are arguably the greatest dirt racers of this era and at such a young age. Either could have entered this race and won, so FOX is extremely fortunate to have them on the broadcast.”
FOX SPORTS: You’re pulling double duty Wednesday at Eldora between your dirt car and your FOX NASCAR duties. How are you going to make it all work?
Wallace: “I’m racing my Toyota dirt modified car in the full show Tuesday night. On Wednesday, I was invited to be in the invitational race because I won the Prelude to the Dream and have won an A-main at Eldora. I’ll be coming right out of my car and putting my headset on. It’s going to be a crazy day for me, but running my dirt car keeps me young, happy and sane.”
FOX Sports PR