Note: My articles are based solely on my thoughts and observations. Normally I do not offer statistics, although at times I may reference what different broadcasters, among others, have said or alluded to.
I will be quoting and/or expanding on things we have talked about on our discussion forum, Roar of the Crowd. A discussion started after NASCAR released its 2021 schedule and it was very thought provoking. That discussion prompted me to write this article, hoping to encourage more discussion. Note: Since I wrote this, more comments have been submitted to Roar of the Crowd and you may read them here.
Eldora is possibly the most popular dirt track in racing. People talk about it, dream about it and go there if and when they can. Once a race fan has gone to Eldora, they long to go back and they talk about the experience for the rest of their life. I have never been there, but have always dreamed about going. There are many like me and unfortunately, our dream will never be fulfilled.
Although most of us think of Rossburg, Ohio when we think of Eldora Speedway, nicknamed “The Big E”, it is actually in New Weston, Ohio. It was built by Earl Baltes as a quarter mile clay oval track and opened in 1954. That being said though, everyone heads to Rossburg for the racing at Eldora and that is the town everyone talks about.
Although the track was constructed as a quarter-mile and did open in 1954, it was changed. Two years after it opened, Mr. Baltes expanded the track to a three-eighths mile, and in 1958 the track was expanded again to the present half-mile track.
The track hosted the Sprint Cars of the United States Auto Club (USAC) for the first time in 1962, and very quickly became one of the favorite venues for that series.
Three-time Champion Tony Stewart raced many open wheel races there prior to joining NASCAR. He absolutely loved the track. When Mr. Baltes retired in 2004, Tony purchased the track he loved. He updated and expanded the operations at the track, but never changed the track itself. He has become a very good steward of the famous track. He always smiles when he is asked about it or speaks of it.
Since Tony bought the track, he has added some NASCAR and other types of racing to the venue. From 2005 to 2012, Tony added Prelude to the Dream with Cup Drivers running borrowed Dirt Late Models. Proceeds from the race and with races going forward went to Kyle Petty’s Victory Junction Gang Camp. He brought in some NASCAR people to do the announcing, etc for these races, most of which were televised. The attendance was overwhelming, but the races were discontinued after the 2012 race. Soon he would bring in the NASCAR Truck Series and held several races mid week. At this time, the trucks are no longer racing there. A lot of us fans miss them very much. I never really heard why they stopped.
Below I have added comments made by several of our members and/or regular posters on the site after NASCAR announced their 2021 Cup Series Schedule. One of the races to be held next year will be at Bristol and will be on the dirt. As any race fan is always thinking about how racing could always be better, we ask: Why not do this or do that, and why dirt at Bristol and not Eldora.? To a lot of fans, it seems like Eldora would be less costly and the perfect venue for a Cup dirt race.
Comments from Roar of the Crowd:
Blacknight3 said: So they are going to make Bristol a night dirt track race. Instead of that, why not just go to Tony’s track and race at real dirt track? Has to be a lot more environmentally friendly than this.
VicqRuiz said: I love Eldora and have been there ~ 15 times in the last several years. But it has (maybe) 25,000 seats, if you include all the hillside folding chair spots. No way Tony gets a race. There are four two lane roads in and out, one to each point of the compass. Closest limited access road is 25 miles away. Traffic is pretty bad getting out for the races, like the Kings Royal and Four Crowns already, so can’t imagine what it would be like for a cup race.
Bobby Williamson said: The obvious choice was Eldora. NASCAR rarely acts as such. The dirt purists don’t usually view hybrid dirt tracks as “real” but it would surely jazz up the schedule. Eldora is a “destination” like Indianapolis or Daytona…perhaps not as many seats, but tons of prestige and honor in the dirt world.
MamaPKL said: Good points, Vicq! There are many smaller tracks, like Eldora, that are simply not geared to hold the volume that a Cup race can bring. Not sure why all the opposition to the dirt race at Bristol. It has been done before, with the World of Outlaws series, and it was a HUGE success. At least they are trying “Something” folks, and that alone is an improvement over the last several years. Let’s go willingly to Bristol and enjoy the fun of a dirt race there. She closed her post with the following which made me smile! “Kwitcherbellyachin’ and enjoy the racing!"
Now my thoughts on the matter: I love dirt track racing – any series, anywhere and anytime. However, the track, the requests for tickets, the grandstands and any other seating or watching area, refreshments, bathrooms, etc must meet the demand of the crowd. The roads getting there and the parking also play a part in supplying the fans with a great experience. As much as I would love to see Cup at Eldora, (and I think the track could handle the Cup cars), I do not believe the facilities, including parking and the road into the track, would be able to handle the kind of crowd it would attract.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to comment or email me. Remember, just keep it clean! Thanks!