In today's Dirt Track Racing landscape, it seems like there is a "Space Race," of sorts, with promoters fighting to have the biggest paying and most marquee events in multiple respective divisions of the sport. Eldora Speedway has been at the forefront of this, making sure to drop headlines out of nowhere to remain relevant across the board and add extra incentive to their big events, for drivers, teams and fans alike. Just in 2019, the track and owner Tony Stewart raised their big 410 Sprint Car show, the Kings Royal, from $50,000-To-Win, to a historic $175,000-To-Win, and added $25,000 to the Dirt Late Model Dream winner's share, making it $125,000. The Kings Royal topped Knoxville Raceway's $150,000 winner's purse and the Dirt Late Model Dream beat-out Mansfield Motor Speedways Dirt Million for the largest winner's paycheck of the late model and sprint car calendars, thus far.
Even with these two major changes to big Eldora Speedway events, many fans, drivers and media outlets have been on their toes to see what may be in store for 2020 and beyond, with zero alterations made to the track's biggest race of them all, the World 100, up to this point. Ever since its inception in 1970, this has been the one late model race per season that drivers and teams have consistently ranked at the top of their bucket list, as a win at Eldora in September can single-handedly make a career. Whether it's the Topless 100, North/South 100, Show-Me 100, Late Model Knoxville Nationals, Dirt Million or Dirt Late Model Dream, the World 100 is simply more marquee, as holding up that Globe trophy at race end is the number one goal at the beginning of any season for dozens of dirt late model stars.
Those races mentioned before are all younger in existence than the World 100, which may have a lot to do with that fact that they simply do not live-up to its prestige, as Earl Baltes simply took a major risk in 1970, as he promised to raise the winners-share by $1,000, each-and-every season of the event. Fast forward nearly fifty years and this weekend's 49th running of the great race will pay $52,000-to-win, and some may believe that it is best to simply continue that tradition and not alter the winner's purse one bit, but that is not Eldora Speedway's style and we all know it.
Earl Baltes was the man ambitious enough to pay $1,000,00-To-Win a dirt late model race, making Donnie Moran the "Million Dollar Man," after winning the 2001 Eldora Million. It's in the track's tradition to do things before everyone else and set the bar for the industry as a whole, whether it was bringing USAC to the Speedway in the early days, paying $100,000-to-win a race, $125,000, $175,000 or the whopping $1,000,000 in the early 2000s, Eldora Speedway, whether it is Baltes or Tony Stewart in charge, have always been on the forefront of history, and one can only think that it is only a matter of time before the World 100 takes on an unbeatable spin, giving it the unanimous number one slot when it comes to crown jewel dirt track racing events.
Though it would take major sponsorship commitments and logistically could take months-and-months of planning, just imagine the hype around a $1,000,000-To-Win World 100 at Eldora Speedway. Yes, I know the race was built on the fact that it raised the winner-share and most years the overall purse, year-over-year, but Earl Baltes and Tony Stewart have spent their entire career's as track owners being the fist promoters to accomplish various things, and this change would forever put the World 100 above any other dirt track racing event.
With Eldora's connections to major companies, via their relationship with longtime Fortune 500 companies and overall motorsports investors, along with the reputation of Stewart, Roger Slack and the track itself when it comes to putting on crown jewel events if any track could make it happen, it is the "Big E." Making the World 100 $1M-to-win would guarantee a sell-out crowd, a major car count that would break any-and-every modern era record and put the race on a stage with the Daytona 500, Grand Prix of Monaco, 24-Hours of Le Mans and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Dirt Track Racing in most motorsports educated people's eyes is in need of a race that can rival other forms of auto racing's biggest event, and the World 100, paying one-million dollars to the 50th winner of the race, or a future running of the event, would do just that.
(Mike Ruefer Photo)