Each year, I anxiously await the “Granddaddy of all Dirt Late Model events,” the World 100 at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway. I’m definitely not alone in my impatient anticipation of Dirt Late Model racing’s preeminent crown jewel. Fans and racers from across the world converge on the Rossburg, Ohio, oval every September to see who will claim the big check and the coveted globe trophy.
This past weekend, anticipation was perhaps at an all-time high as fans clamored to see who might be the victor. For the first time in a long time, there was no single clear-cut favorite. The 2018 season has been an interesting one, as no one driver has been able to consistently establish his dominance over his competitors. As a result, there were no less than a dozen potential winners who had seen their name regularly tossed into the pot across social media, forums, and random discussions.
But, the one contender who was far underestimated, was Mother Nature. Not only did she scream onto the scene at the 48th Annual World 100, but she quickly established her dominance.
After delaying the start of Thursday night’s opener, weather finally let us see the final checkered flag drop at roughly 4:00 a.m. on Friday morning. After a few hours of sleep, we were dismayed to wake up and find out that the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon had set up shop throughout the Midwest and Mid-Ohio Valley. Track officials were left with no choice other than to postpone the final two nights of the event until October 12-13.
While we all felt strong disappointment in seeing our most favorite of weekends cruelly ripped from our clutches for another month, we were at least able to enjoy a great night of racing on Thursday. Countless notes, insights, and other innuendoes crossed my path from the single night of racing, and left me inspired to share some of them in an article.
With that said, let’s get to digging into some of my favorite happenings from Day #1 of the 2018 World 100.
Despite an unfavorable forecast, 101 race cars crammed into Eldora Speedway to take part in the opening round of the 48th Annual World 100. However, two would never see a lap of competition. With technical and safety inspection at the top of the priority list for the event, pre-race inspection found two drivers sidelined.
Canadian racer, Ricky Wiess, who many regarded as a dark horse to claim his first World 100 title, was a shocking scratch after his primary car didn’t pass inspection. The culprit stemmed from some of the tubing in his two-year-old Bloomquist car, which didn’t meet the current tube diameter requirements.
Weiss had a back-up car in his trailer, but didn’t have enough time to switch the engine and other components. While he was clearly disappointed in the scenario, he was amicable to the situation presented to him. “Clearly, I couldn’t be more disappointed, but it is what it is. Rules are rules, and now that we know we have an issue we’ll get the changes made and be back for the next one,” the talented young racer said.
Incidentally, the team departed the pit area before the start of Thursday’s program, and made the long trip to North Dakota’s River Cities Speedway. The arduous trek paid off as Weiss won a preliminary event, and then pocketed an additional $9,200 for his first-career triumph in the John Seitz Memorial.
Kentucky’s Ernie Cordier was the other driver, who was forced to scratch after his car also failed to meet safety requirements.
Anyone who is a student of Dirt Late Model racing – like I am – loved everything about the first $10,000-to-win, preliminary feature held on Thursday evening. It saw (arguably) the two greatest Dirt Late Model drivers of all time battling it out for the win. Billy Moyer led the first 20 circuits before fellow Dirt Late Model Hall-of-Famer Scott Bloomquist took control with just five circuits remaining.
The race allowed us all to not only geek out at two legends battling on our sport’s biggest stage, but it also showed that age is only a number in motorsports.
Moyer’s son made the following comment on Twitter about what the race meant to him. “It sure was awesome watching Dad and Scott battle for the lead at Eldora. I know we got beat, but as a lifetime fan of our sport, that was just incredible to watch again.”
Eldora Speedway is a lightning-fast, ½-mile oval, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, I think we all take for granted just how much respect the place demands. As I walked through the pit area I stopped to chat with Louisiana’s Cade Dillard, who was preparing to tackle the track for the first-time ever.
This place is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. – Cade Dillard
Dillard is known for his throttle-mashing, up-on-the-wheel driving style, but he was blunt when I asked him if he was excited about hitting the track for hot laps. He responded, “Man, honestly I’m really nervous right now. This place is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Dillard started the night with speed in hot laps and qualifying, but bad luck bit him in both the heat race and his B-Main as he battled for transfer spots. I hope to see him back at the Big E in October, as he really showed some strong potential.
Two-time World 100 Champion, Jimmy Owens has had a forgettable year. The Tennessee racer has had plenty of speed, but he has not had much luck at all. Random mechanical failures and mishaps have kept Owens from Victory Lane on multiple occasions.
On Thursday night though, the stars aligned, and Owens streaked to a $10,000 victory in the second, preliminary feature. Anybody who has seen his incredibly bad luck this year, almost expected something crazy to happen in the closing laps of the 25-lapper. Owens shared the same sentiment.
“If it can happen, it’s happened to us this year. I knew I had a great car, but honestly I was just waiting for something stupid to happen in those last few laps,” Owens laughed. “Luckily it was a drama-free feature, and we got the win. I really like where we are at with this car right now.”
Dirt track racing as a whole does a great job of supporting those in need. It’s something really cool that we have a knack for doing. At the World 100, Tennessee’s Ryan King was doing his part to spread awareness about a very serious disease. His Warrior Race Cars house-car donned a special Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) wrap. The design was inspired by his good friend, Michael Barnes, who saw his brother take his own life a few years ago after a devastating battle with PTSD, following his discharge from the armed forces.
“Michael [Barnes] approached me with the idea of doing a PTSD wrap to bring here to the World 100, so that we could educate people about how serious the situation is,” King commented. “I knew it was bad, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t know just how bad it truly is. Twenty-two veterans take their lives everyday from it, and largely it goes unpublicized in the media. Hopefully, our wrap will help spread awareness.”
We live in a day and time, when it’s no big secret that tracks and series don’t go out of their way to cooperate on scheduling. Throw in the fact that we’ve pretty much filled up every weekend on the calendar with a special event, and it’s next to impossible to find dates for a reschedule.
With that said, I’ve got to give major kudos to the Heckenast family. Not only do the Illinois natives go out of their way to support race teams and events, but they also operate the Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois. When it became apparent that the World 100 would likely need to be rescheduled, the Heckenast family reached out to Eldora Speedway General Manager, Roger Slack with a more-than-generous offer.
Promoter Sherri Heckenast offered to cancel their World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Late Model Series-sanctioned, Chi-Town Showdown on October 12-13 so that Eldora Speedway could have a suitable reschedule date for the 2018 edition of the World 100. With the weekend weather taking a kamikaze-style nosedive on Friday morning, the reschedule was officially announced.
“The news on the weather just keeps getting worse, flash flood watches are becoming warnings, and green on the radar is turning red,” said Roger Slack, General Manager. “We need to be mindful of the safety of our fans, guests, and competitors. There is a lot of rain coming, the Wabash (River) is rising quickly, the infield may flood, and we are expecting very heavy winds. It’s best that we get the campers and racers on their way back home and hold the event in far more enjoyable conditions on October 12th and 13th.”
The bad news is that for the first time in almost three decades the World 100 has been postponed. However, if there is a silver lining, it may be what the reschedule has to offer.
Friday and Saturday’s World 100 programs will be run on October 12-13, but that’s not all the weekend will hold. As part of the previously scheduled #LastCallForThemAll weekend, the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars will headline a racing program on Sunday, October 14. This docket presents diehard gearheads with three-straight nights of action with both Super Late Models and Sprint Cars on the menu at some point throughout the weekend.
We can only hope that Mother Nature will take a mid-October vacation, so that we can all enjoy what could become a truly legendary, extended weekend of playing in the dirt.