ROSSBURG, Ohio – When the green flag waves over Eldora Speedway on Saturday, it will be a historic moment as it will launch the start of the 60th consecutive season of racing action at the historic speed plant.
Conceived in the fall of 1952 by area farmer/band leader Earl Baltes, Eldora was unveiled to the world on June 6, 1954 as a .250-mile mile clay oval. Two years later, the ingenious Baltes increased the size to three-eighths mile before configuring the present day .500-mile shape in 1958.
From its humble beginning as a place for area speedsters to gather and chase for bragging rights, Eldora Speedway has become an industry leader that has become known worldwide for its high-speed competition, lucrative payouts and time-honored events.
By introducing clever and unique promotions, Baltes spurred the growth and popularity of Eldora.
As the phenomenon known as Eldora grew, so did the size of the historic events, many of which remain on the annual menu. Kicking off the long line of spectacles was the World 100 for Late Models in 1971, an event that will see its 43rd annual running this year Sept. 5-7.
The annual USAC (United States Auto Club) Four Crown Nationals was created in 1981 (32nd annual Sept. 20-21) while the Sprint Car world was rocked with the $50,000 to win Kings Royal in 1984 (30th annual July 12-13). Joining the World 100 as a prolific Late Model event was the $100,000 to win Dirt Late Model Dream in 1994 (19th annual June 6-8).
Other high profile creations included the Eldora Million in 2001 that witnessed Late Model driver Donnie Moran becoming $1,000,000 richer and the Mopar Million for non-winged sprint cars in 2003 as Jac Haudenschild drove to a $200,000 pay day.
Baltes stepped away in the fall of 2004 when he sold the facility to three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. Stewart has continued with the pace established by Baltes by introducing the Prelude to the Dream in 2005 and again this year (July 24) when he will bring NASCAR back to dirt for the first time since 1971 with an invasion by the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Stewart’s vision into the next 60 years is simply to continue building upon the famed Eldora Experience.