Today, the number of big dirt Late Model races that pay the big purses and attract the top name drivers are plentiful. It wasn't always the case.
To get to the finals of the World 100, you have to qualify and then beat the best in the b
The World 100, an annual event at Ohio's Eldora Speedway, has a lot more going for it than many of the events on a racer's schedule. Its fame doesn't come from the top money it pays. There are many races that pay more to win--in fact, one event at Eldora (The Dream) pays nearly three times as much to the winner. Fame comes from longevity.
The classic World 100, started in 1971, was the brainchild of Eldora promoter Earl Baltes, who wanted to recognize dirt Late Model racers. Held the second weekend in September, this race draws over 200 cars and puts the stars of Late Model touring into the pit areas with regional hopefuls. The big guns are there because no sanction schedules against the World 100.
With the importance of the World 100, it's interesting to examine how different drivers prepare for such an event. Rodney Combs never won the event, but tried to make it whenever he could, even when off plying his trade in pavement racing. He always brought his best equipment, bringing as many as three or four cars. "They allowed it back then and it gave you a better chance to qualify well," he explained.
Rodney Combs sought the World 100 crown even after moving on to NASCAR's Busch Series.
Billy Moyer has won the World 100 five times, more than any other driver. Moyer used to bring a new car every year, but has changed that practice. "With a car that has a couple races on it, it gives me confidence," he explained. "The same can be said for the engine with several races on it and then having it freshened."
Moyer once relied heavily on the notes from the previous year. "But now, these cars change so quickly, the notes many times don't help. The tires don't change, but the chassis sure does. I like a loose race car at Eldora, which is a momentum track. It seems to work for me."
The winner of the biggest race in Eldora history took home one million dollars, but his World 100 wins mean as much as the big payday. Donnie Moran knows the track has changed over the years, but the winner has to be able to change with it. "The quick way around used to be around the top, but Earl moved the dirt around a little. Now, the middle of the track is the fastest way. There used to be a heavy cushion at the place, but that's not the case anymore. I like my car to be on the loose side at this place."
Five-time World 100 winner Billy Moyer is always a favorite.
Moran usually reaches out for a new car for this event. "You can look at your notes from previous World 100s and use them as a starting point. If you are driving a different brand of car or there has been a change in the technology, those notes might not help much."
Rick Eckert won The Dream, but has been shut out of the World 100. Eckert believes the key to unlocking that success comes in track time. The best way to get Eldora track time is running a Late Model race--such as an American Late Model Series event--at the track before the World 100 weekend. "It really helps and many times the guys that got in there did better in the World."
Eckert's not sold on using new equipment. "Oh, I might use a new engine if I had one, but carwise, I want one under me where I have had success. Even though you don't have any control over it, getting a qualifying position in the middle of the field seems to be best at this place most of the time, but then again, not always."
The first World 100 win for Steve Francis came in 1999. He wants proven performance. "I might run the car at the August North-South race (at Florence Speedway in Kentucky) and a Labor Day race before the World. That way, I'd have about 200 laps on the engine."
Francis understands that qualifying is the key. "I usually watch about 30 cars, 15 cars at one end of the track and 15 on the other, which gives me a pretty complete picture of the condition of the track."
Another element is pit placement. Francis prefers to be in the infield. With the overflow pit areas, many top teams find themselves on the hills above the track.
World 100 Procedure
* Drivers draw for qualifying; each driver draws a number for first round, then a number for second round. One qualifying lap each round.
* Top 120 qualifiers run in six heat races. Remaining cars run in one of up to three non-qualifiers' races on the night before the World 100.
* Winners of the six heat races fill the first three rows of World 100. Cars finishing second and third in the heats automatically qualify for the main. Cars from fourth back in the heats must run a B main or C main.
* Provisional spots open to fastest two cars from qualifications who did not earn a spot through other means.
Donnie Moran has won The Dream, the Million, and the World 100, but wouldn't mind another
Steve Francis got the World 100 crown in 1999 and thinks a slightly used car is the answer
Rick Eckert thunders through the Eldora night. He's looking for his first World 100 win.