Prelude To The Dream, Or Prelude To The Future?

HAMMOND, IN- Pay-per view sporting events on cable and satellite TV are nothing new. Boxing and other specialty contests on pay-per-view have been around for years. In fact, one of the Pocono NASCAR events was presented as a pay-per-view broadcast in the mid-?90?s if anyone remembers. Apparently, that little experiment in capitalism wasn?t too successful. Even fewer will remember that the old CART group, during its struggle to survive, tried to stage a ?million to win? non-points race in Hawaii, with the prize money to be generated by presenting it as a pay-per-view TV event. If you don?t remember that, don?t feel bad, because it never really came close to seeing the light of day.

A few years back, the half-mile dirt Eldora Speedway decided to add a special event as a lead-in to their wildly successful big money ?Dream? late model race. The idea was to invite a number of well known drivers to compete in a short late model race as a ?prelude to the Dream?. The contest would be a laid-back, fun event for the competitors, while offering additional value to the late model fans in town anyway to attend the ?Dream? on Saturday night. With the explosion in NASCAR popularity of late, the idea of super stars ?doing it in the dirt? was compelling to say the least?not to mention a huge success!

Last year, during Tony Stewart?s first season as Eldora?s owner, we attended the originally scheduled date for the Prelude. We had been to Eldora many times in the past, but never for a late model show. Even though the entire event was washed away by persistent rain, it was a truly eye-opening experience. Seeing literally thousands of fans standing in a driving storm, very few even with rain gear, just to get an autograph from Kasey Kahne , Mark Martin, etc., made quite an impression. My thought at the time was, ?just how big could this thing get??

The answer to that question came a few months ago, when it was announced that the 2007 ?Prelude to the Dream? would be offered as an HBO pay-per-view telecast, with the proceeds going to Kyle Petty?s Victory Junction Gang. Based on what we had seen first hand at Eldora last year, it seemed certain that this was one pay-per-view auto race that could succeed.

With gas prices off the charts?not to mention the Prelude being a sell-out?the living room couch and a 36?Sony looked like the proper equipment to ?attend? the 2007 Prelude. The $24.95 ?ticket? price, especially with the Victory Junction Gang enjoying the proceeds, seemed fair. So, with adult beverages and a couple of pizzas on hand, a few friends and I settled in for an evening of dirt track fun?minus the dust!

As expected, the event made for great television. To see Juan Montoya having fun slinging clay? and NOT embarrassing himself; to see former dirt track wizard Jeff Gordon return to his roots for the first time in 16 years and nearly pull-off the win?these are the type of memories that we all hope to see while attending motorsports events.

Did we get out moneys worth? Absolutely. Does this mean our days of attending auto races in person are over? No?of course not.

But?is this the start of a trend in motorsports viewing? I think maybe so. As fierce as the competition for the entertainments dollar is today, not to mention the ever-increasing cost of travel, the idea of reasonably priced pat-per-view TV racing events becomes more and more attractive. Where it might go from here is anyone?s guess, but it seems likely that pay-per-view motorsports will be part of our future.

To put it another way: I like dirt in my beer as much as anyone but, on the other hand, I do have a damn nice couch!

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