The History of The Big E: Eldora Speedway

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NASCAR made a bold step this week by holding a Camping World Truck race on dirt at Eldora Speedway.  It was the first time that one of the elite touring series from NASCAR raced on dirt since 1970!  For those of you who are familiar with one the premiere dirt tracks in the USA, I have enclosed a report on the history of this fine dirt track in Rossburg, OH.

Eldora Speedway, also known as The Big E and Auto Racing’s Showcase since 1954, is located near New Weston, Ohio. Eldora is a half-mile clay oval with an estimated seating capacity of nearly 20,000. It hosts such races as “The Kings Royal,” “The Dirt Late Model Dream,” “Chevrolet American Revolution Weekend,” and “The World 100.” The World 100 annually attracts over 200 dirt late-model racers, while the Chevrolet American Revolution Weekend originally featured four races in one night — midget, non-winged sprint, Silver Crown, and dirt modified, with drivers earning a special bonus should one driver win all four races.

Eldora Speedway New Weston, OH was built in 1954 by Earl Baltes, a prominent area bandleader with no previous racing experience. Baltes, who was born on April 27, 1921 in nearby Versailles, Ohio, had stumbled onto a race at New Bremen Speedway and was so impressed by the big, enthusiastic crowd that he decided to build his own race track.

Baltes had purchased the Eldora Ballroom from “Ma” Shoes two years earlier, offering weekly dances and musical performances. Eventually Baltes curtailed the musical performances as the track grew more successful.

The track was constructed as a quarter-mile as it opened in 1954. Two years later Baltes expanded the track to a three-eighths mile, and in 1958 the track was expanded to the present half-mile length.

The track hosted the sprint cars of the United States Auto Club for the first time in 1962 and quickly became one of the favorite venues for the series.

In August 1965 Orville Yeadon won the first Eldora 500, featuring 33 sprint cars running 500 laps. One year later Larry Cannon won the Eldora 500, and in 1967 Don Nordhorn won the Eldora 500, the last time the race was contested. By this time Baltes was promoting several other tracks, and the 500-lap race fell by the wayside.

In 1971 Baltes shocked the racing fraternity when he held the inaugural World 100, offering an unprecedented purse of $4,000 to the winner. Bruce Gould ultimately won the race, and the event is widely considered to be the birth of the modern “dirt late model” type of racing, which today is one of the most popular forms of racing on America’s short tracks.

When the World of Outlaws sprint car series was launched in 1978, Baltes recognized the promotional potential of the group and quickly booked several events at Eldora. It was a key partnership for the fledgling series, giving them much-needed credibility and momentum. Eldora hosted the season finale in October, where Steve Kinser captured the inaugural WoO championship and was proclaimed “King of the Outlaws.” In the years that have followed Eldora has remained a mainstay venue on the WoO circuit and annual The King’s Royal race.

In 2001 Baltes held the “Eldora Million,” his defining achievement as a race promoter. Offering a $1 million prize to the winner, the race remains by far the richest short track race in history. Donnie Moran captured the event and the top money, and was christened “The Million Dollar Man.”

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart purchased the speedway in late 2004 from Earl Baltes, who built the speedway from the ground up in 1954. In 2011, Stewart hired former Charlotte Motor Speedway V.P. of Events Roger Slack to direct the day-to-day operations as General Manager and Promoter of Eldora Speedway. The historic racing oval now features state of the art luxury suites atop the turn 3 area while fans also enjoy live coverage and replays of the on-track action via the large Coca-Cola video board in turn 2. Additional catchfencing and a new caution light system were added for safety, along with numerous other facility improvements during the past two seasons.

Upon the sale of Eldora to Tony Stewart, Baltes retired from race promoting, living a short distance from the track with his wife Berneice. Upon his retirement the state of Ohio honored Baltes by renaming Hwy. 118 “Earl Baltes Highway” from Ansonia to the south to St. Henry to the north.


The Dirt Late Model Dream


The Dirt Late Model Dream, currently a United Midwest Promoters late model sanctioned-race, has been run annually since 1994 (except in 2001 when a million-dollar purse race was run instead) in June. The race is noted for its prize money, worth $100,000 for the winner. The 2013 Ferris Commercial Mowers Dream featured a revised format which provided 2 full feature race programs on each of the preliminary nights (Thursday June 6 Winners: Josh Richards, Matt Miller; Friday June 7 Winners: Matt Miller, Dennis Erb.) This year’s $100,000.oo Dream winner Scott Bloomquist claimed victory in short track racing’s richest event for a record setting 6th time.


The Prelude To The Dream


In 2005, Stewart added a Wednesday night undercard, the “Prelude to the Dream”, a Sprint-sponsored race with visiting Sprint Cup stars driving borrowed UMP Late ModelsKenny Wallace won the first “Prelude to the Dream” and a total of $50,000 to Kyle Petty‘s Victory Junction Gang Camp.

The race was canceled because of rain in 2006, and Tony Stewart won the makeup race, the “Prelude to the World”, a reference to the September World 100 late model race (it was now scheduled for that weekend), and celebrated his win by climbing Eldora’s new catch fence and jumping into the crowd of fans. Both “Prelude” events combined have attracted more than 40,000 spectators to Eldora Speedway.

The 2007 race returned to the Dirt Late Model Dream feature in June, and featured both a live audience and pay-per-view coverage, with all proceeds from the coverage again being donated to Victory Junction. The NASCAR on Fox crew of Mike JoyDarrell Waltrip, Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, and producer Pam Miller were on the broadcast staff as well as NASCAR on TNT booth analyst Kyle Petty. Carl Edwardsheld off Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon to win the 2007 event and celebrated by doing his trademark backflip off of his car onto the dirt. Over $800,000 was donated to the charity.

In 2008, the NASCAR on Fox crew of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum, and producer Pam Miller returned to the track to call the event for HBO Pay-Per-View along with NASCAR on TNT‘s booth analyst Kyle Petty. 23,000 fans attended the race this year as they watched track owner Tony Stewart win the 4th annual charity race. At the end of the race, the Tony Stewart Foundation donated $1,000,000 to the Victory Junction Gang Camps.

The 2009 Prelude to the Dream was set to benefit military charities after track owner Stewart picked up US Army sponsorship on his Stewart-Haas Racing Sprint Cup team—The Wounded Warrior Project, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Operation Homefront and Fisher House. The Prelude to the Dream was cancelled on June 3 because of persistent rain. Once again, a makeup race, the “Prelude to the World,” was run on September 9.

The 2010 Prelude was won by NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s car was prepared by Clint Bowyer.

On June 8, 2011, Clint Bowyer won the 7th Prelude to the Dream. The HBO pay-per-view revenues from the race will go to four children’s hospitals in: St. Louis, Dallas, North Carolina and Atlanta.

In 2012, the race was extended to 40 laps. Kyle Busch won the 8th Prelude to the Dream.

In 2013, the track will host the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Mudsummer Classic.  Though the track does not have any SAFER barriers, NASCAR director of safety Tom Gideon stated that the track meets NASCAR safety guidelines.


The World 100


The World 100 is considered to be one of the most prolific racing events of each season. Traditionally run on the weekend following Labor Day the 2013 September 5-7 event will mark the 43rd Annual World 100 which pays a handsome $46,000.oo to the winner along with the pair of coveted globed trophies (one each for the winner and car owner). Bruce Gould claimed the win the in the inaugural World 100 (September 1971) and Billy Moyer leads the headlines in the history of the race with 6 World 100 championships. In 2013 Eldora Speedway re-formatted the track’s two most prestigious dirt late model races (The World 100 & The Dream) and offers added opportunity and value for competitors and spectators with an expanded schedule of three full nights of competition. Based on the spectacular racing frenzy provided by June’s Ferris Commercial Mowers Dirt Late Model DREAM, this September’s version of the 46th Annual World 100. The 2013 World 100’s Thursday and Friday (September 5 & 6) formats will feature full racing programs including Twin Feature races each night. Then on Saturday September 7 the action features a full compliment of preliminary heat races and showdown qualifying events prior to the running of the Grandaddy of all short track races, the 2013 World 100

Following Moyer’s phenomenal feat on the list of drivers with multi-time World 100 wins are four-time champion Donnie Moran and three-time World 100 champs Larry Moore, Jeff Purvis and Scott Bloomuist. Defending World 100 winner Brian Birkhofer joins Jimmy Owens as the only other racers with more than one win in the prestigious race. Birkhofer’s 2002 win when he snatched victory away from Scott Bloomquist by two feet at the finish line is one of the most ballyhooed World 100’s in the events history, as was the 2006 noted as one of the greatest dirt late model races ever held, as in the last 25 laps the top 5 cars raced feverishly for the lead. The race was won by Jacksonville, Florida’s Earl Pearson, Jr.


The Four Crown Nationals


From 1981 until 2006, the 4-Crown Nationals were a historic part of the track’s September race card, with four different races on one night:

  • USAC Midgets
  • USAC Sprint Cars
  • USAC Silver Crown
  • UMP Dirt Modified

In 2007, Tony Stewart changed the format to a two-night format renamed Chevrolet American Revolution Weekend, owing to the ownership of the United Midwest Promoters being owned now by the World Racing Group. The new format has the World Racing Group sanctioned cars on Friday and the United States Auto Club sanctioned cars on Saturday.


  • UMP Dirt Modified
  • World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series (winged sprint cars)


  • USAC Midgets
  • USAC Sprint Cars
  • USAC Silver Crown

I looked it up so that you would not have to!

Research info: (google,wikipedia,


21 Comments on “The History of The Big E: Eldora Speedway”

  1. Very nice article but there was no mention of the USAC sanctioned Mopar Million on September 20 2003 with 138 open wheel cars competing for the $200,000 going to the top spot. The eventual winner being Jac Haudenschild.

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