Stewart, Gordon headline all-star cast at Eldora benefit race

Want to see Jeff Gordon back racing on dirt? Tony Stewart, too? Check out this week's Nextel Prelude to the Dream benefit race at Eldora Speedway.

Updated: June 2, 2007, 9:41 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Ever wonder what it would be like to see the top names in the Nextel Cup series race on dirt?

Here's your chance.

Four-time Cup champion and current points leader Jeff Gordon will head an all-star cast participating Wednesday night in the Nextel Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

This will be the third year of the event that is organized by two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, who purchased Eldora Speedway in 2004. It will be shown on HBO as a pay-per-view event, with proceeds going to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Tony Stewart Foundation.

It will be Gordon's first trip to Eldora in 16 years.

"I'm excited to be able to provide a format and a race that he feels comfortable with to come and run and give him a chance to go back to his roots and come back to a track that was on his way up the ladder to becoming a four-time Nextel Cup champion," Stewart said.

Gordon will be joined by 25 world-renowned drivers, including Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Dave Blaney and Bobby Labonte.

"The part of it that's been the most fun for me is watching guys that haven't run on dirt and come the first time and really see how much talent they have," Stewart said. "I remember when Matt Kenseth came to Eldora the first time -- he drug the right rear corner off the car during qualifying, which is not uncommon there in a dirt late model.

"Even the best of the best do it. He was up right by the wall and had set a quick time at that point of the night and he took to it like a duck in water. It really shows the fans how much talent these drivers have and why they were able to earn their right as a Nextel Cup driver."

In excess of 20,000 fans are expected for the event that will be divided into heats with a 25-lap finale.

Gordon hasn't taken a lap there since he drove a USAC National Midget Car Series event en route to the 1991 championship.

"Just because he hasn't been on the dirt for 16 years doesn't mean anything," Stewart said. "He's going to pick it up real quick again. I think Juan Pablo will be really good in these cars. He's just got so much natural driving talent that he'll pick it up and be competitive right away.

"But then you've got the sleepers, the guys like Mike Wallace, who's run well every time he's been to Eldora. Kurt Busch was good last year. Guys like that are guys that can go up there, and if their team gets their car right, they'll win the race."

The broadcast begins at 8 p.m. HBO's first-ever racing telecast has a suggested retail price of $24.95.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter