37th and 38th annual Kings Royal
Location: Rossburg, OH | Dates: 7/14–7/17
Just Follow the Money
Some people consider racing a hobby. Others look at it as a sport. But, PRI knows it’s much more than that. Racing is a business, an industry, a network of interconnected activities that generate billions in revenue and support countless families across the United States.
To understand racing as an industry, just follow the money. That is, the big money at The World’s Greatest Dirt Track, Eldora Speedway. This past weekend the track hosted not one but two of its iconic Kings Royal events. The 37th annual Kings Royal, originally slated for 2020, was black-flagged by the pandemic.
Undeterred, the World of Outlaws series worked with Eldora Speedway to hold 2020’s 37th annual event the same weekend as the 2021 (38th annual) event. Kings Royal events include two feature races, so this past weekend featured four total events with a weekend’s total winner’s purse that exceeded $374,000.
Like we said, just follow the money.
Before we tell you the winning stories from this past weekend, here’s the quick history behind the business of dirt track racing in Western Ohio. Just north of Rossburg, in New Weston, an innovative promoter added a race track to a dance hall and music venue he purchased in 1954. The first track was a 1/4-mile semi-banked oval and was an immediate hit with racers and fans. Why? The track’s owner and promoter, Earl Baltes, knew crowds would come to see racers go fender-to-fender for a big purse.
In the years since, the track grew to 3/8-mile and then to its current 1/2-mile length. Baltes kept the crowds coming with innovating slates of races, including the Eldora 500 (1965) that featured a field of 33 sprint cars running 500 laps. In 1971, Baltes hosted the World 100 with a (then) astonishing purse of $4,000. That one event is considered by many to be the genesis of contemporary dirt late model racing.
Baltes also hosted races for the new World of Outlaws when the sprint car series debuted in 1978. This decision helped ensure the track’s prominence for decades to come. Eldora has also played host to NASCAR when they brought their truck series to race on the dirt.
Tony Stewart recognized the prominence of Eldora Speedway when he purchased “The Big E” back in 2004. A three-time NASCAR Cup Champion, avid dirt track racer, and race team owner, Stewart understands the business of racing. In 2011, Stewart strengthened the Eldora management team when he hired former Charlotte Motor Speedway VP Roger Slack to lead day-to-day operations. Slack is a professional manager and promoter, himself a protégé of the legendary Humpy Wheeler. Slack helped complete major facility upgrades that included luxury suites, a huge video board, and numerous safety improvements.
Fast forward to today, Eldora Speedway regularly hosts Dirt Late Models, Modifieds, Eldora Stocks, World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, USAC National Midgets, USAC Silver Crown Qualifying, and more, and the PRI Road Tour was on-hand for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series double feature event.
We caught up with Donny Schatz, who drives for Tony Stewart Racing. The 10-time World of Outlaws Champion fought to a Top 5 finish during one of the weekend’s four features. He sat down to discuss what it's like to race at Eldora, and we’ve got highlights from our conversation in the video that accompanies this story—you don’t want to skip it.
Kyle Larson, the hugely popular NASCAR Cup driver for Hendrick Motorsports, was also part of the weekend’s festivities, proving even top-flight drivers like to get down and dirty (especially when the potential payday is so big).
Larson proved his skills by winning the 37th Annual Kings Royal by fighting through the field from his starting position in ninth. Larson overcame great odds, including recovering from a wreck earlier in the day where he flipped his car to earn the $175,000 paycheck for his biggest-ever dirt car win.
Related, Larson had previously owned a dirt car team with Carson Macedo as its driver. Although the race team shuttered in 2020, Macedo didn’t let that keep him from the pits. The native Californian is a fourth-generation racer, and, driving for himself this year, he won half of the features at Eldora Speedway’s special Kings Royal events. In a post-race interview, Macedo joked, “Unfortunately, we didn’t win the two races that paid $175,000!” The 24-year-old racer did pocket $12,000 for each race, however, and increased his total number of wins for the season to 12.
On Saturday for the 38th annual Kings Royal, the fans got to see Tyler Courtney win his first World of Outlaws Series race in what was his first Kings Royal appearance. The win was hard-earned as Courtney, starting from second, had to endure a complete race restart after he’d rocketed into the lead on the first lap. The red flag reset the field, but Courtney got on in front again, racing against polesitter Justin Peck. Brad Sweet, the 36th Kings Royal champion, picked off Peck and dueled with Courtney and Daryn Pittman in action that looked like an accordion; the three would bunch up, then spread out, then bunch up again, over and over.
In his post-race interview, Courtney expressed how he felt with earnest sincerity, “I saw everyone stand up, and that’s something you dream about as a kid. I’ve watched a lot of these races as a kid, seen all the crowds go crazy when people like this win. You never think in your dreams it is going to be you. Not very often does it actually happen. This is, by far, the biggest win of my career. I don’t think I’ve ever won over $12,000 before, let alone a crown jewel like this.”
Courtney—like Larson and Carson and Stewart and Baltes—pursued his dream of making racing his business. And it paid off, not only for Courtney but for his sponsors, his crew, and the myriad companies and individuals that support the entire dirt car racing community.
Eldora Speedway doesn’t announce attendance or gate figures, but industry sources estimate the track can accommodate up 30,000 fans at major events. Even with a handful of rain delays and forced schedule changes, the venue was jam-packed. Be sure to catch the action in the accompanying video above, featuring sprint cars running on methanol, the pushrod V8s pushing 900 horsepower yet weighing only 1,400 lbs.
As emphasized earlier, racing is a business, and becoming a member of PRI is the best way to protect our sport and our livelihoods. Check out PRI’s new membership options for individuals and businesses here. Plan to attend the 2021 PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis on December 9–11 to catch up with the latest products and services. To register as an attendee for the 2021 PRI Trade Show, visit here.
Catch up on the PRI Road Tour’s other stops, including the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, plus see where we’re heading next, at performanceracing.com/roadtour.