Bowyer Wins Seventh Annual Prelude to the Dream
The seventh annual Prelude to the Dream Wednesday night was one of the first events of the season at Eldora Speedway that went off without the threat of bad weather. A beautiful day with temperatures in the high nineties set the stage for drivers and fans as the Big E filled up to capacity with more than 20,000 people coming out to see some of NASCAR’s, NHRA’s and IndyCar’s best battle it out on the high banked half mile. When asked about the hype of the event and what it means to them, drivers had very similar things to say.
“It’s just a great opportunity for all of us to get away from the big time of NASCAR and just get back to where we all came from,” said Carl Edwards. “Up until 2001, dirt is all I’d ever raced on. Winning this race before only makes me want to win it again even more.”
“It’s awesome that Tony puts this on every year,” said Kyle Busch. “It’s great to come out here and race for charity, especially when you’re racing for a cause like we are this year, for children’s hospitals.”
Last year’s winner, and five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was ready to defend his title at the Big E. “Being a part of this is just so cool,” Johnson said. “I won it last year and just hope to get out there and put on a show for these fans again.”
The excitement was evident throughout the media center, but it got even more intense when the drivers slid into the pilot’s seat of their late models to kick off the night of events.
As drivers started gearing up to take their machines on the track, many were seeking advice from late model series regulars like Chris Wall and Earl Pearson Jr. It looked as though these drivers were gearing up for the Dream. Wall was working on the car he provided for Jason Leffler and Pearson was working on owner Bobby Labonte’s ride. It was a true melting pot of drivers from every series, all working in the same atmosphere, all for a great cause.
In hot laps, the fastest drivers were Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon and track owner Tony Stewart. Qualifying would shake things up a bit, but it was still Ryan Newman at the point, laying down a lap of 16.364. The rest of the top five were Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer.
In heat one, the front row was made up of Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. At the drop of the green flag it was Smoke at the point, but the 33 of Bowyer didn’t let him get to comfortable in that top spot, charging by the number 14 machine on the outside of turn two, taking the position away on the backstretch. The 9 of Ken Schrader was able to get around the 39 machine of Ryan Newman to take the third position away. The top four was able to break away from the field, but no one was able to catch up with Bowyer, as he had lengthened his lead to several car lengths as he took the checkered flag and the win.
Heat two was led to the green by the 31 of Justin Allgaier. The 99 of Carl Edwards and the 88 of Aric Almirola were battling side by side for the second position. Almirola was able to secure the position and set his sights on Allgaier. The two frontrunners were nose to tail for the top spot, but it only lasted a lap or two before Allgaier began putting some security space between he and the 88 machine. As the checkers waved over the field, it was Allgaier who took the win of heat number two.
The number 4 machine of Ricky Carmichael and the 9 of Marcos Ambrose led the field to the green in the third heat. Carmichael was at the point at the line, but Ambrose powered to the point on the outside of the backstretch before completing lap one. The 44 of Bobby Labonte and the 18 of Kyle Busch were battling for the third position in turn three, but Labonte’s machine went for a spin in turn four, bringing out the caution. At the restart, Ambrose took off with the lead and Busch took the opportunity to challenge Carmichael for that second spot. The caution would fly again quickly for debris in turn one. At the green again it was Ambrose at the point, and again, Carmichael and Busch were fighting for that second spot. The battle for the second position only allowed for Ambrose to stretch his lead out to over five car lengths as he took the win in heat number three.
Heat four was led to the green by the 38 of Jason Leffler, but coming out of turn four, the field was three-wide battling for second through fifth. The cars sorted out and the 1G of JJ Yeley and the 4 of Kasey Kahne settled in to the second and third spots. Kahne tried putting his nose in to take the second position away, but Yeley was hanging tough. Leffler was able to make his way around the half mile with no troubles, and easily took the win in heat number four.
The Feature Event
Before the feature event, a challenge was put on the table, giving all past Prelude winners the opportunity to go to the back of the field to start the event, with the catch being that if one of them were to win from the rear, they would be given an additional $50,000 to the charity their team represented. All except for one took the challenge on, those included Tony Stewart, Kenny Wallace and Jimmie Johnson. Carl Edwards chose not to participate in the challenge, wanting to keep his front-end starting position. However, Edwards put another offer on the table, saying that if he won the event, he would donate $50,000 of his own money toward their charity, no small wager.
The 28-car field lined up for the 30-lap feature event, with the front row made up of Bowyer and Almirola. When the green dropped, it was Bowyer at the point, but Leffler and Yeley were side by side battling closely for that second spot. Leffler wasn’t able to hold him off, and Yeley took the spot away. On lap ten, lap traffic began playing a part in the event. This allowed Yeley to get even closer to Bowyer, who looked to be the favorite most of the night. A caution came out on lap ten for debris in turn one, bunching up the field again for a single-file restart.
At this point, Stewart took his machine to the work area to have his team check out his tires. When the green came back out, Stewart rejoined the field at the tail end of the field. Once Again, Bowyer jumped out with the lead. Ambrose, who was holding steady in the fourth position scraped the wall in turn two, causing him to get into the side of Allgaier. The two were able to regain control of their sideways machines and continue on. At this point, the#18 of Kyle Busch had made his way from an 11th starting position to the sixth spot. On lap 13, the caution would come out again after the 19 of Ray Evernham and the 33 of Ron Hornaday went for a spin in turn four.
As the field went green again, Bowyer was still in control. Behind him cars were three-wide on the backstretch, battling for the fourth position. Carmichael and Leffler got into each other in turn two, but were able to regain control and continue working to make their way to the front. Leffler ended up leaving the race only laps later, pulling into the pit and calling it a night. The 82 of Tony Kanaan brought out the caution again on lap 19 after smacking the wall in turns one and two and losing a tire on the backstretch. At this point Ambrose surprisingly took his car to the work area under this caution for attention by his crew.
With only eleven laps to go, Busch was the hard charger going from an eleventh starting position to fourth. At the restart, Yeley made a move to the bottom of the track, getting his nose under the 33. For the first time all night, it looked like someone was going to contend with Bowyer. However, the #33 had other plans and was able to hold onto the position. The caution would fly again on lap 20 after Labonte and Hornaday took a spin in turn four.
When the field took the green again, it would be a ten lap dash to the finish. Busch made a move under Almirola for the third spot, but the 88 charged right back and kept his position. With only a few laps remaining in the event, Evernham took his car to the pit area after it blew up on the backstretch. The top four had pulled away from the field, only a few car lengths separated Bowyer from Yeley. The 1G machine of Yeley was giving it all it could, following Bowyer’s line to try to reel him in, but he couldn’t make it happen. As the checkered flag flew after 30 laps of side by side racing, it was Clint Bowyer who took the win in the seventh Prelude to the Dream, his first win in the event.
“It feels so good to win this thing,” Bowyer said. “The car was great, and this is just awesome! Thank you to all you fans for coming out for this.”
Bowyer’s enthusiasm was evident as he jumped out of his car, fist pumping and screaming out in excitement. Last year’s winner Jimmie Johnson came over to victory lane to congratulate Bowyer on his big win. After Johnson won the event last year in one of Bowyer’s cars, Bowyer told the media that he wasn’t going to give Johnson a whole lot of pointers. He said if anyone was going to win it this year in his equipment, it was going to be him. And that’s just what he did.
Here is a full results list for the Prelude to the Dream feature event: 1. Clint Bowyer, 2. J.J. Yeley, 3. Aric Almirola, 4. Kyle Busch, 5. Justin Allgaier, 6. Ricky Carmichael, 7. Ken Schrader, 8. Austin Dillon, 9. Ryan Newman, 10. Kasey Kahne, 11. Denny Hamlin, 12. David Reutimann, 13. Matt Kenseth, 14. Brian Vickers, 15. Carl Edwards, 16. Kenny Wallace, 17. Ron Capps, 18. Jimmie Johnson, 19. Cruz Pedregon, 20. Tony Stewart, 21. David Gilliland, 22. Bill Elliott, 23. Bobby Labonte, 24. Marcos Ambrose, 25. Ray Evernham, 26. Ron Hornaday, 27. Tony Kanaan, 28. Jason Leffler.
Be sure to tune in as we will be reporting all the action from the Dream at the Eldora Speedway. Two full days of late model action as the biggest drivers in late model racing battle head to head for one of the most coveted wins on the schedule, and not to mention a $100,000 check. Be sure to check back to the site regularly all week for racing updates!