Two-time USAC open-wheel champion Tracy Hines will attempt to boost his victory total at one of his favorite race tracks this summer when he drives a Toyota Tundra in a reunion with ThorSport Racing at Eldora Speedway’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series dirt-track race.
When NASCAR scheduled its first national series’ dirt race since 1970, it anticipated an all-star cast of dirt-track specialists entering. Hines, 40, of New Castle, Ind., brings much more than a notable dirt pedigree to his ThorSport entry in the July 24 mid-week NCWTS round at the half-mile speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
“We’re excited to have a driver with Tracy’s ability in one of our trucks for a truly unique event that we feel will really highlight what he’s done at that venue as well as what he can do in the series’ first dirt race,” ThorSport general manager David Pepper said. “We’re looking at Tracy to be a positive influence on our entire organization through his experience as a top-level dirt car owner and driver, but especially through the insight he’ll be able to offer his teammates.”
“The realization that a major NASCAR series is going back to dirt is super exciting,” Hines said. “What is it going to be? I don’t think anybody knows, until we run under that checkered flag, what we’re actually going to see. So that’s definitely huge.”
Hines has 52 career Truck Series starts — 48 of them for ThorSport in 2004-2005 — but he’s been an ace on dirt, where he’s won 85 main events across USAC’s three primary divisions, putting him fourth on USAC’s all-time wins list. Those victories include Hines’ 12th career Eldora win, in a USAC sprint car in September 2012. Hines’ next Eldora start will come in a USAC sprint car on April 20 — an event he won a year ago
Hines won championships in USAC’s two most high-powered series, the 2000 Silver Crown Series and two years later in the National Sprint Car Series. He started the 2013 season with two USAC National Sprint Car Series wins at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., in February.
Hines made his NASCAR debut in 2003, with four Truck Series starts for owner Jim Smith before he raced two seasons in trucks with ThorSport. Hines had a best start of fourth for Smith in 2003 at Texas and fifth for ThorSport in 2005 at Daytona and a best finish of fifth, at Mansfield, Ohio in 2004 and Richmond in 2005.
In all, Hines has 69 career starts between the Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where he made 17 starts for four owners between 2004-2006, with a best finish of 13th at Bristol in 2006, for Armando Fitz.
“(The year’s been) pretty good so far (and) we won both races at Eldora (in 2012) so who knows?” Hines said while taking a break from car preparation in his Indiana shop. “You know you’re only as good as your last race, so we’ll see.”
Hines’ next race of about 80 he’ll race in USAC this season is a Sprint Car Series event at Lawrenceburg, Ind. — ironically the same day the NASCAR Truck Series races at Martinsville. April 12-13 Hines races a USAC midget at Kokomo (Ind.) before he’s back in a sprint car April 20 at Eldora.
“We’ve had a lot of success over the years at Eldora, in many different types of cars,” said Hines, who has 12 career victories at the fast half-mile, putting him one win behind legend Jack Hewitt on Eldora’s all-time wins list. “I’ve ran modifieds over there so I have some bigger car experience and I’m excited to see how my 52 Truck starts and my wins at Eldora can hopefully add up to success in the Truck Series.”