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ROSSBURG, Ohio – The $10,000 winner's paycheck was far from the standard amount that Nextel Cup or the Busch Series award. What's more, there were no points to be won, either.
Yet Kenny Wallace had one of the best times he's ever had behind the wheel of a race car Wednesday night, winning the inaugural Nextel Prelude to a Dream late model modified stock car race at the Tony Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway.
Although the main event was just a 25-lap sprint, the nearly 20,000 fans in attendance saw plenty of action, including a surprise pole-winning performance by 70-something-year-old – he admits to being "somewhere between 75 and 70" – stock car legend Red Farmer, and a surprise appearance and strong fifth-place performance by semi-retired NASCAR great Bill Elliott.
Given the success – and the nearly $75,000 raised for Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp (Petty finished 13th out of 14 cars) – Stewart said what started out as an experiment will return for an encore performance next year.
"The people have spoken and it will happen," said a smiling Stewart, who bought the legendary race track during the offseason.
Wednesday's race was Stewart's first major event as the new owner and he pulled off an exciting night of racing that had fans on their feet and cheering as if they were at a Nextel Cup event.
The finishing order was Wallace, followed by Stewart and sprint car ace Danny Lasoski.
"I thought I was seeing double out there, with two No. 20s in my mirror," Wallace quipped.
Ken Schrader was fourth, followed by Elliott, Dave Blaney, Bobby Labonte, Farmer, drag racer Ron Capps, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Green, Kevin Harvick, Petty and Mike Wallace, who was the only driver who failed to finish, suffering a blown motor midway through the race.
With nearly a dozen of Stewart's Nextel Cup buddies in the field, Wallace predicted the pressure will be on even more Cup drivers to take part in next year's race.
"I think you'll see a Nextel Cup dirt race here next year," Wallace said.
Playing off the celebrated run-in Stewart had with Jeff Gordon this past Sunday at Dover, Del., Wallace then added the line that drew the most applause and cheers of the night: "What I think everybody will be looking for next year is Jeff Gordon going head-to-head with Tony Stewart. Now that should be interesting."