By the end of NASCAR’s visit they were digging the dirt action and buying pizza burger t-shirts.
The green flag is scheduled to drop about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday. Vince Welch, Michael Waltrip and Kyle Larson will call the race for FoxSports1. The pit reporters are Hermie Sadler, Christopher Bell and Kenny Wallace.
READ MORE FROM 2017: Tony Stewart back in the car at Eldora Speedway
Austin Dillon won the Dirt Derby in 2013. He’s since been followed by Bubba Wallace, Bell, Larson and, last year’s winner, Matt Crafton. Sauter wants to add his name to the list Wednesday.
But just like finding Eldora without a GPS for newcomers, he knows it won’t be easy.
Sauter’s average starting position at Eldora is 10.8. His average finish is 19.0. His best finish was eighth in 2014. Since then he’s finished 22nd, 13th and 23rd.
“If you want to know the truth I feel like I’m regressing instead of progressing,” Sauter said. “It’s a tough one for me. I’ve spent 40 years asphalt racing and it’s just a tough deal to learn. But I love the atmosphere and I love going out there. I think it’s a really cool place. … It’s tough when you only do it once a year. I don’t do any extra-curricular dirt racing. I do asphalt. I’m 40-years old. It’s hard to undo everything you know.”
The mid-week classic often attracts NASCAR Cup drivers or standouts on the dirt circuit. Among them, Cup driver Ryan Newman is schedule to make his first start since finishing third in the inaugural event. Chris Windom, the 2017 USAC national sprint car champion, returns for the second straight season. He finished 19th last year.
Still, those asphalt veterans aren’t there to be field fillers. Crafton proved that last season by leading 24 of the 150 laps for the win.
Sauter, who drives the No. 21 Chevrolet for GMS Racing, said a good finish would be anything between fifth and 10th.
“I would be totally satisfied,” Sauter said. “I just wish I knew more about (racing on dirt). If I was 20 I’d be more apt to go out and really try to learn it. But I’ve got four kids at home that like time with their old man.”
Sauter enters Eldora with a series-high four wins. He’s finished among the top five in 10 of his 12 starts. He’s locked into the postseason – along with Brett Moffitt (3 wins), Noah Gragson (1), Ben Rhodes (1) and Justin Haley (1) – so racing for points isn’t a concern. That allows Sauter to take some chances, which can be key at a track like Eldora.
“If I’ve got an opportunity to win at Eldora I’m taking it,” Sauter said. “The points at this point aren’t a concern to me at all. We’re pretty much locked in. We have the opportunity to win that race – which would take a miracle – we’re going to take it.”
ELDORA DIRT DERBY
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Radio: Motorracingnetwork.com; SiriusXM Satellite channel 90
Online: FOX Sports Go
3 p.m.: Spectator gates open
6:30 p.m.: DIRTcar modifieds, Eldora stock car qualifying
7:05 p.m.: Truck Series first practice
8:15 p.m.: Modifieds, stock car heat races
9:05 p.m.: Truck Series final practice
10:20 p.m.: Modified, stock car features
Noon: Spectator gates open
2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Trucks Series autograph session
4:15 p.m.: DIRTcar modifieds, stock car practice
4:30 p.m.: Truck Series qualifying (single truck; two laps)
6:15 p.m.: Modified, stock car features
7 p.m.: Truck Series heat races (five heats; 10 laps each)
8:15 p.m.: Truck Series last chance qualifying race (15 laps)
9 p.m.: Truck Series feature (75 miles, 150 laps; stages — 40/90/150)