One race can truly make or break a season if it is scheduled after Labor Day. The prestigious events in terms of stature and payday will generally come in September and beyond. Drivers who have had mediocre seasons can rebound nicely with just one good showing. It can breathe new life into a staggering program. It can also create massive disappointment because it's 365 days until you get another chance like this.
In September, three big racing events occur on dirt tracks that get plenty of national attention. These three races are different in some ways but similar in others. The tracks are located in different states with their own unique characteristics. A couple of the events involve just one division of car in competition. Points are not the most important consideration for this race. The cash is nice, but the prestige is even better.
Regretfully, two of the events are held at the same time, forcing the American racing fan to make a choice. Judging from the crowds, though, the choice wasn't to stay home. In fact, these events went up against the venerable "NASCAR Saturday night" and no one cared.
Heat race action determines...
Heat race action determines the starting lineup for the World 100. Each of the six preliminaries generally offers a star-studded field. Since only three can advance, some good drivers have to make it through the B feature. This year was no exception.
Dateline: Rossburg, OH
33rd Annual World 100
UMP Late Models
History has shown that a driver with a hot hand coming into the Eldora race has to be considered a favorite. Wisconsin racer Dan Schlieper, winner of a $50,000 payday at the North-South 100 at Florence (Kentucky) Speedway two weeks before, was among the favorites. Darrell Lanigan, winner of Eldora's prestigious Dream in June, had broken through, and all eyes were on him. Former winners were abundant, but so were the hopefuls. A near-record 222 cars were entered-one of the highest totals since the rules allowed one car per driver, cramming the Eldora pits and overflow area.
The unique format of the World 100 makes it tough for drivers with little track time. A three-lap practice session is all the time you can get at speed-not much if you're looking for a winning combination. Drivers drew for their qualifying order. They drew one pill for round one and another for round two. The worst luck is a late pill in round one and an early pill for round two. It means no time for changes between sessions. It happens. It did this year.
A popular souvenir at the...
A popular souvenir at the '03 World 100 was the Earl Baltes bobble head, seen here with its namesake.
Even worse is having bad luck on track during qualifying. A number of cars impacted the wall in their search for first-round speed. They essentially threw away 50 percent of their hopes in an instant.
For 102 drivers, there would be no tomorrow. Only the fastest 120 get to attempt the six qualifying heats. Most of the rest get to run nonqualifying races on Friday night into the wee hours of the morning. You can take heart that you get track time, but there's little joy in knowing that even a win won't guarantee a shot. You may make it as an alternate, but your odds are small.
How important is qualifying? Elvin Herschberger was 121st fastest. His time was .001 second slower than John Provenzano. It meant Provenzano raced on Saturday. Herschberger ended up winning a nonqualifier's race. At least he can say he won a feature at Eldora.
The field salutes the fans...
The field salutes the fans in the traditional four-abreast pace lap. The fans came in droves as veteran observers felt the crowd was up this year. It's a big part of why so many drivers want to be there.
You never know what you'll...
You never know what you'll see at Eldora. The preliminaries this year included a wedding on the victory stage.
Indiana racer John Gill is...
Indiana racer John Gill is a fan favorite. Like most drivers, Gill will take the time to meet his fans and appreciates their support.