NASCAR stars enter Eldora "Prelude to the Dream"

Seven Days Until the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream: Eldora - Making of a Legend Fifty-Three Year-Old Dirt Track Ready to Host NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice on Wednesday, June 6 ROSSBURG, Ohio (May 30, 2007) -- Eldora...

Seven Days Until the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream: Eldora - Making of a Legend

Fifty-Three Year-Old Dirt Track Ready to Host NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice on Wednesday, June 6

ROSSBURG, Ohio (May 30, 2007) -- Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, has seen many drivers pass through its pit gate since its first race 53 years ago. On June 6, the half-mile dirt oval will see a who's who of racing elite, as the legendary track plays host to the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream presented by Old Spice. The ultra-competitive all-star race featuring motorsports' finest drivers, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and more, will be broadcast live on HBO Pay-Per-View, with proceeds from this ground-breaking telecast supporting the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Tony Stewart Foundation.

The live broadcast will begin at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT), with an immediate replay and subsequent replays throughout the week and the following weekend. Prospective viewers can order the event as early as this Sunday, right up until race time on June 6. All that is necessary to order the event is digital cable or satellite service. A subscription to HBO is not required. The suggested retail price is $24.95 and available to more than 61 million pay-per-view homes. Ordering information and up-to-the minute racing information is available at www.hbo.com/sports.

While HBO Pay-Per-View is new to Eldora, racing isn't. The venerable track nestled deep in the Ohio countryside has been the birthplace of racing stars for years, with its alumni moving onto open-wheel and stock car fame. Here's a look at some of its milestone moments:

The Beginning...

Eldora Speedway, or Eldora Park as it was known in the early years, was built by Earl Baltes in 1954. The first racing event held there, on June 6, 1954, was an unsanctioned, open event featuring the race cars of the period, which were known as coupes, or sport coupes. Gene Pyle was the first race car driver to put his name in the history books at the then-quarter-mile dirt track.

The war years didn't affect the attendance or popularity of the track, and Baltes added to the racing activities by hosting dances every Wednesday and Sunday night in the Eldora Ballroom. A popular entertainment option for the region's residents, Eldora featured a full racing program every Sunday afternoon before a lighting system was installed. In 1956, Baltes reconfigured the track into a 3/8-mile oval, with the final, half-mile reconfiguration coming in 1958.

The Mile...

With the success of the half-mile facility, Baltes decided to undertake an additional project at Eldora Speedway in the early 1970s. He began to build a one-mile track located just southeast of the current high-banked oval, but it was at a time when one-mile configurations were struggling. So Baltes made the decision to halt the project. It was never completed and it sits dormant on the property today, still visible by satellite imagery.

Legends and Memories...

Since its opening in 1954, Eldora Speedway has proved to be the frontrunner in motorsports growth and stability. The first USAC National Sprint Car Series event held was at the facility on April 22, 1962, and was won by Stan Bowman. In 1978, the World of Outlaws Sprint Series brought the thrill of winged sprint car racing to Eldora Speedway, with Bobby Allen winning the first-ever event on April 16, 1978. In the late model ranks, the first annual World 100 was won by Bruce Gould in 1971.

In 2003, Eldora Speedway broke new ground in another way. After months of consulting with race fans from all over the world, Baltes announced the Mopar Million Sprint at Eldora Speedway. Boasting a $1 million purse, the event would mark the first time that a corporate sponsor would back a marquee event at the facility. Featuring the non-winged sprint cars of USAC, the event became an instant classic and ushered Eldora Speedway into a new era of racing.

Changing of the Guard...

After 50 years of ownership, Baltes and his wife, Berneice, made one of the most difficult decisions of their lives in late 2004. Running Eldora Speedway was all the couple had known for most of their lives, but with their age advancing and the daily demands of the facility growing in scope, they made the decision to sell the legendary half-mile track.

In November of 2004, it was announced that multi-time racing champion Tony Stewart had purchased Eldora Speedway. The official changing of the guard came on Nov. 18, 2004, as Baltes turned the keys of his masterpiece over to the next generation of history makers. Stewart was a fan-favorite as the new owner, and he assured the Baltes family that he would continue to build on the track's longstanding history and traditions.

New Age Drivers Meet Old-School Dirt Track Tradition...

In 2005, Stewart and the Eldora Speedway staff announced that they would begin a new tradition, one that would bring mainstream interest into the heart of short-track racing. Featuring 14 of the biggest names from NASCAR and the NHRA, past and present, the 2005 NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream saw the largest crowd in the track's history.

The first event of its kind, it provided racing's elite an opportunity to experience the thrill and demands of one of dirt track racing's most challenging layouts. Also unique was the fact that all proceeds of the charity event would be donated by the Tony Stewart Foundation to Kyle and Pattie Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp. When the dust settled, the crowd cheered as Kenny Wallace accepted the winner's check on the frontstretch stage.

2007 NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream...

This year's NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream will see several returning faces and a new crop of dirt-track rookies as they take to the half-mile, high-banked oval. Led by Stewart, 26 drivers are confirmed to compete. The elite group includes Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and many others.

Gordon is set to make a return to the dirt of Eldora Speedway for the first time since 1991. He last turned a lap at the facility in a USAC National Midget Car Series event en route to winning the championship later that season. Montoya will also make his first-ever dirt start in this year's event, adding more diversity to the field.

Event Information...

The third annual NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream will take place at Eldora Speedway on June 6, 2007. Gates open to the public at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with practice scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. EDT.

For More Information...

A limited number of tickets are still available for this year's NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream. To purchase tickets, or for more information regarding Eldora Speedway or the NEXTEL Prelude to the Dream, log on to www.eldoraspeedway.com.

For more information regarding ordering the event on HBO Pay-Per-View, log on to www.hbo.com/sports.

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About this article
Series NASCAR , Stock car
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya