A Royal History

Cover Photo by Julia Johnson


Created by legendary Eldora Speedway founder Earl Baltes, the Kings Royal sprint car race was scheduled to be run for the 37th time on July 18.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 37th running of the Kings Royal has been postponed to 2021, but that didn’t stop us from digging into the event’s storied past.

When it debuted in 1984 at the historic Ohio half-mile dirt track, the Kings Royal was the highest-paying sprint car race in the world, offering $50,000 to the winner.

While the Knoxville Nationals paid the top purse in sprint car racing for many years, Eldora made history last year when winner Brad Sweet earned a record $175,000.

The first Kings Royal was run over two nights, with qualifying on Friday and racing on Saturday. The event quickly grew into a two-night racing program and in recent years it has featured multiple nights of winged sprint car competition.

This year’s event was scheduled to begin July 15, with First Knight programs for both the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series winged sprint cars and the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series non-winged sprint cars.

The World of Outlaws Jokers Wild followed on July 16, before the Knight Before the Kings Royal on July 17 and the Kings Royal.

The Kings Royal was scheduled to pay $175,000 to the winner for the second year in a row and has provided many memorable moments.

Here are a few from the SPEED SPORT archives.

Kings Royal By The Numbers

18 — Drivers who have won the Kings Royal.

8 — Drivers who have won the Kings Royal more than once.

7 — Steve Kinser has been crowned King seven times, more than any other driver.

3 — Donny Schatz won the Kings Royal three years in a row from 2016-’18. He’s the only driver to ever win the Kings Royal in back-to-back years.

1 — Dave and Dale Blaney are the only set of brothers to have each won the Kings Royal.

1 — Kerry Madsen is the only Australian winner of the Kings Royal.

13 — Years between Sammy Swindell’s second Kings Royal victory in 1999 and his third in 2012.

8 — Shane Stewart was the eighth different driver to win the Kings Royal in as many years when he took the checkered flag in 2015.

1984: The Inaugural Kings Royal

Steve Kinser earned $50,211 for winning the inaugural 40-lap Kings Royal feature, racing from seventh on the grid aboard Karl Kinser’s familiar No. 11. Shane Carson and Jac Haudenschild completed the podium as 57 cars participated in the event.

Sammy Swindell’s Flat Tire

Sammy Swindell was in sight of the checkered flag in 2011 when the right-rear tire went flat on his No. 1 sprint car, allowing Tyler Walker to register one of the most unlikely victories in Kings Royal history.

“I’ve lost so many in the last turn,” said Walker, who drove Shawn Keen’s No. 17. “I was giving it about half throttle there at the end because I knew the tires were getting low. It just feels really good to be on the other side of that kind of deal.”

Brad Doty Injured

Steve Kinser won the fifth annual Kings Royal in 1988, but the race will forever be remembered for a crash that ended Brad Doty’s driving career.

Doty, who has gone on to a successful career on television, was paralyzed in a multi-car accident on the opening lap of the feature.

Eldora Jac

Ohio racer Jac Haudenschild is arguably the most popular driver in the history of Eldora Speedway and the biggest victories of his career have come at the track.

He won the Kings Royal in 1987, ’94 and ’98. Haudenschild also banked $100,000 for winning the 1993 Historical Big One and $200,000 for topping the only Mopar Million non-winged sprint car race in 2003.

Past Kings Royal Winners

2019 – Brad Sweet
2018 – Donny Schatz
2017 – Donny Schatz
2016 – Donny Schatz
2015 – Shane Stewart
2014 – Kerry Madsen
2013 – Brad Sweet
2012 – Sammy Swindell
2011 – Tyler Walker
2010 – Steve Kinser
2009 – Donny Schatz
2008 – Daryn Pittman
2007 – Donny Schatz
2006 – Joey Saldana
2005 – Steve Kinser
2004 – Jason Sides
2003 – Steve Kinser
2002 – Joey Saldana
2001 – Mark Kinser
2000 – Dale Blaney
1999 – Sammy Swindell
1998 – Jac Haudenschild
1997 – Steve Kinser
1996 – Johnny Herrera
1995 – Dave Blaney
1994 – Jac Haudenschild
1993 – Dave Blaney
1992 – Sammy Swindell
1991 – Steve Kinser
1990 – Doug Wolfgang
1989 – Bobby Davis Jr.
1988 – Steve Kinser
1987 – Jac Haudenschild
1986 – Don Kreitz Jr.
1985 – Doug Wolfgang
1984 – Steve Kinser