Tony Stewart looks on at Eldora Speedway. (Tyler Carr Photo)

Stewart ‘Proud’ To Make History With Eldora Million

When it comes to ground-breaking ideas in racing, Tony Stewart has played a role in a number of those projects over the years.

From the resurrection of the International Race of Champions series in the form of Superstar Racing Experience, to the formation of successful race teams, the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is constantly pushing growth in motorsports.

Though this Thursday at Eldora Speedway, Stewart’s leadership reaches new heights – the first $1 million-to-win sprint car race. 

As the owner of the half-mile dirt oval in Rossburg, Ohio, Stewart saw the success of last year’s Eldora Million dirt late model race. Stewart and his Eldora team wanted to up the ante. 

“It’s always been in my mind to be the first to do a million-dollar sprint car race,” Stewart said. “I don’t know who will step up after us after we’ve done it once. 

“But, hopefully, this is something that’s not just exclusive to Eldora Speedway, that we can keep putting on big events. But, Eldora will always strive to be the pioneer to do things bigger and better than anybody else has ever done it.

“That was the way Earl Baltes did everything. When I bought the racetrack from him, I told him and looked him in the eye and shook his hand and said, ‘I will continue that tradition to the best of my ability.’ 

“This is a step in that direction.” 

The 37th Kings Royal parade lap. (Dan McFarland Photo)

Along with Thursday’s Eldora Million that features a whopping 82 entries, there are four consecutive nights of sprint car racing at the historic half-mile track.

Two preliminary Eldora Million features will run on Wednesday, with each paying $12,000-to-win.

The other events on the docket include the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series’ Knight Before The Kings Royal on Friday, paying $20,000 to the winner, along with the 40th Kings Royal on Saturday, paying $175,000-to-win.

In total, $2,000,023 is scheduled to be shelled out by the end of the weekend.

“I’m really excited about the fact that the sprint car community is finally getting a million-dollar-to-win sprint car race,” Stewart said. “Nobody’s even close. 

“From the Eldora standpoint, I know myself, Jerry Gappens (General Manager, Eldora), all of our staff are really proud and excited about this event. We’re proud to make history. We’re excited for all of our race fans that are coming. The camping has been sold out for months now. 

“I think the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable here and all these fans that are going to be a part of history, I think that’s probably one of the most exciting parts for us.”

Why Stewart Won’t Be Racing

With Stewart’s decorated career across stock car, indy car and dirt racing, naturally the question comes up – Will ‘Smoke’ compete?

The short answer is no. 

Smoke Scores
Tony Stewart wheels his No. 14 sprint car en route to victory at Arizona Speedway in 2021. (Tyler Rinken photo)

Now 52 years old, Stewart admitted the ownership side and lack of reps in a sprint car are the main reasons he won’t compete for Thursday’s top prize. 

“That and I’m old. I’m old, and I’m out of shape,” Stewart said. “Trust me, I can promise you this. I’ve raced with the majority of these guys that are going to be here. They’re tough. It would be very hard for me to compete with these guys. 

“These guys run 60-70 races a year, and if you’re not doing the same thing, you’re not going to race at the caliber that those guys are. I’ve got a very high level of respect for every driver that’s coming to this event.”

The news may be a disappointment for Stewart’s fan base, though he assured that Thursday’s feature will showcase some of the best drivers in motorsports.

“I can promise you this 24-car starting field on Thursday night is going to be the who’s-who of sprint car racing,” Stewart said. “For that, that’s what makes it exciting. 

“My heart would love to be in the middle of that field, it’s just not going to be possible.”