Turn 2 Blog: How Important is the Eldora Million to the Sport of Dirt Racing?

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*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.

The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.

With the events coming up at Eldora Speedway from Wednesday through Saturday, exactly how big of a week is this for the sport of Dirt Late Model racing?

Richard: I don’t think it’s an overstatement at all to say that this is the biggest week in the history of Dirt Late Model racing. The only other time there was a $1,000,000-to-win race, it was exactly that- one race. Not only is Eldora Speedway putting up $1,002,022 for Thursday’s feature but the regularly scheduled Dirt Late Model Dream paying $128,000-to-win will also take place at the Rossburg, Ohio facility on Saturday evening. Additionally, there will be preliminary events on Wednesday and Friday.

From a financial standpoint alone it is a monster week.

But more than just benefitting whichever drivers and teams win or finish well in the feature races, the entire sport has much to gain from this week. Because of the amount of money up for grabs there will be coverage dedicated to the happenings at Eldora on television as well as radio broadcasts and podcasts that may not normally delve into this form of motorsports. Websites and even newspapers who set aside most of their motorsports coverage to NASCAR or IndyCar will give mention to these races.

Some point out that they would like to see a lower winner’s share of the purse and more money spread throughout the field. And while that would certainly benefit more teams, it would not serve as the attention getter that $1,000,000-to-win will.

In short, yes, this is a huge week for the sport of dirt racing because of the payout and the attention it will garner.

Eldora Speedway will be the focus of much of the racing world this week

Michael: I think the Eldora Million will have a two-pronged effect, one positive and one negative.

The positive will be the reasons you mentioned. There is sure to be some added exposure for a driver winning a million dollars in a dirt race. I don’t recall whether any mainstream outlets mentioned the previous running. But things were much different 21 years ago. I’ll be watching to see who exactly picks up this story.

The negative is how this is going to affect the tire supplies. Getting tires is tough proposition right now as it is. Now, you’re adding a midweek race that will see many race teams participate and going through a lot of tires. The professional racers will get their tires. This will trickle down to the regional and local racers. This will be something to watch in the coming weeks.

Could something like the Eldora Million become a more regular happening?

Richard: I’m not necessarily predicting that there will be more $1 million races but we are seeing promotional entities and the streaming services that support those entities become much more aggressive so I believe that as long as they think they can at least break even in terms of subscriptions we will see more races paying in the six-digit area in the very near future.

As we have discussed on here before, the business model for this sport is changing as we see tracks being leased out for big events being promoted by streaming services. Grandstand attendance will always be important but there is very definitely a revenue shift taking place. And the major determinant of that future revenue is going to come from streamed broadcasts. Since those broadcasts are dependent on the selling of subscriptions, it is essential to do things that will get the attention of potential subscribers. Nothing in this sport gets attention like big purse money.

These Eldora races will be aired by FloRacing.com but there are several others out there vying for the dollars of potential viewers.

Last year, I posted on Twitter that Eldora needed to keep up the four-day weekend like what they did in 2021 and was told by many that such a thing would not be sustainable. Well, not only did the Tony Stewart-owned track do exactly that but they went even bigger.

I have no idea if Eldora will wait another two decades to do this again or if they will make it an annual thing but I know that other tracks, sanctioning bodies, and streaming services will be watching to see just how big they will need to go in the future.

I don’t know that anyone else will offer $1 million but there will be other attempts to garner attention if this goes over well, and it probably will.

Michael: I don’t think we’ll see another million to win race in the near future. But there’s no doubt XR is upping the ante on purses and the others are having to follow suit. We’ve seen The Dirt Track World Championship jump to $100,000-to-win. Florence Speedway has increased the winner’s share of the North/South 100 to $75,000-to-win. I can see them getting to that $100,000 mark soon.

As we have discussed before, purses do need to go up. But as that happens, some of the tracks that have long held these races may get left behind.

But the fans still play a part in this too. At what point will they say enough is enough for rising ticket prices, to go along with everything else going up? Right now, it looks like fans are willing to pay $45-$50 for a $50,000 to win race based on recent attendance which goes back to my original point about there not being another million race for some time. I don’t think fans mind paying the extra to see that race, but probably won’t do the same the next year or even the following year.

Brandon Overton(76) and Bobby Pierce(32) will be counted among the favorites at Eldora

It’s prediction time. Who will be leaving Eldora Speedway as a millionaire?

Richard: The easy thing to do is predict that Jonathan Davenport will be this week’s big winner. He has had success at Eldora before and his team seems to be really clicking right now. And of course, the “sexy” pick would be to go with Brandon Overton based on how well he did at the Ohio track in 2021.

But I am going to go in another direction. every time I think about this race, something just keeps pointing me toward Bobby Pierce. He has won at Eldora before and his team seems to be gaining momentum as they point toward this race. The Oakwood, Illinois driver is my pick to win.

For a dark horse selection, I am going to go with Ryan Gustin. The Marshalltown, Iowa driver has shown a lot of speed lately and recently earned his first major Super Late Model victory when he won a $20,000 World of Outlaws CASE Construction Late Model Series feature at Ohio’s Sharon Speedway. If an unexpected driver is going to surprise the Dirt Late Model world, the pilot of the No. 19R is my pick to do so.

Michael: Overton and Davenport should be the favorites to take home the million dollars. Those guys have recently dominated Eldora.

My pick is Chris Madden. I think this is the year he gets that first big Eldora win.

As far as a dark horse, how fitting and ironic would it be if Devin Moran won this race considering his dad won the first one?

Please consider also reading:

Jonathan Davenport dominates Historic 100 feature at WVMS

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