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BIG IN THE BUCKEYE STATE: Ohio’s Long Connection with the World of Outlaws

A group of World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars race at Attica Raceway Park
The World of Outlaws are ready for a heavy dose of Ohio that will add to the significant history between the Series and State (Trent Gower Photo)

From border to border, roughly 40,000 square miles of Ohio’s land is dotted with dirt tracks. And the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars have a long and heavy history spread across that terrain.

It’s a history that will grow healthily in 2024. The Greatest Show on Dirt is about to embark on a 25-day stretch that features seven races in the “Buckeye State” at five different tracks. It begins with two nights at Eldora Speedway (May 3-4) and leads to stops at Attica Raceway Park (May 17), Sharon Speedway (May 18), Atomic Speedway (May 24-25), and Fremont Speedway (May 27).

The seven nights will add to the immense list of Ohio races in Series history. With more than 300 total trips, it’s the third most visited state since Ted Johnson unleashed the band of travelers in 1978. It didn’t take long for the band to roll into Ohio. The second ever World of Outlaws race was contested at Earl Baltes’ Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH). Pennsylvanian Bobby Allen went to Victory Lane.

“The Big E” welcomed the World of Outlaws eight more times during their debut campaign. Ohio’s own Rick Ferkel made fellow Buckeyes proud by claiming four. Eldora’s nine appearances on the first schedule set the stage for a long and fruitful connection between the track and Series.

Two more Ohio ovals hosted the nation’s best Sprint Car drivers in 1978. Limaland Motorsports Park was first conquered by Ferkel. And the Series first and only visit to Wauseon, OH’s Oakshade Raceway went to New Oxford, PA’s Steve Smith. A total of 13 races were contested in the state in 1978 – the most of any as the Series came to life.

Each of the first four seasons of World of Outlaws action saw Ohio lead the way in terms of the state with the most events. Eldora remained a mainstay while Wayne County Speedway (Orrville, OH), New Bremen Speedway, Mansfield Motor Speedway, and Millstream Speedway (Findlay, OH) joined the fray during that four-year run.

Throughout the 1980s Eldora remained a staple of the schedule, routinely hosting several races per season. Millstream and Wayne County held occasional dates, but it wasn’t until the turn of the decade that two new facilities were added. Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway joined for a debut weekend in May of 1990 swept by Steve Kinser. On July 15, 1990 Millstream Speedway hosted Ohio’s 100th overall World of Outlaws Race.

The 1990s also marked another major moment in the connection when the World of Outlaws became part of the Kings Royal – a tradition that continues today as the Series will roll into Eldora on July 19-20 for the 41st edition with $175,000 going to the King.

The 4-Wide Salute at the 2023 Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway
The 2023 Kings Royal welcomed a record crowd through the Eldora Speedway gates (Trent Gower Photo)

It took another dozen years for the next new track to come along when Danny Lasoski topped the Series debut at Hartford’s Sharon Speedway in 2002. The following season Atomic Speedway – then K-C Raceway – hosted The Greatest Show on Dirt for the first time, bringing the total of tracks visited to 11.

As a result of the state’s many racetracks, Ohio has also turned many of its local talents into national stars with the World of Outlaws. Of the 152 drivers to win World of Outlaws races, 16 are Buckeyes.

Hartford, OH’s Dave Blaney leads the way with 95 World of Outlaws victories (eighth all-time). His first came at Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL) in 1985. In the mid-1990s Blaney became a dominant force teamed with Casey Luna, topping 56 Features from 1993 through 1996 that also included the 1995 championship.

The Wooster, OH father-son duo of Jac and Sheldon Haudenschild are the next two most successful Ohioans. Jac’s famous driving style earned him the nickname “The Wild Child” and led him to 72 checkered flags. He won with a record 15 different car owners and enjoyed the most success aboard Jack Elden’s #22, which he wheeled to 32 wins. Sheldon has picked up 37 checkered flags, all since joining Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing in 2018 including a trio already in 2024.

The state’s first winner – Rick Ferkel – is next on the list. “The Ohio Traveler” racked up 21 triumphs, eight of which came in his home state. Millersburg, OH’s Brad Doty collected 18 checkered flags before his career got cut short in 1988.

Other Ohio winners include Dale Blaney (Hartford), Danny Smith (Chillicothe), Kenny Jacobs (Holmesville), Chad Kemenah (Findlay), Jack Hewitt (Troy), Frankie Kerr (Fremont), Greg Wilson (Benton Ridge), Randy Ford (Elmore), Johnny Beaber (Gibsonburg), Rick Ungar (Belpree), and Dean Jacobs (Wooster).

Only a day remains before the World of Outlaws invade Eldora to continue growing the Series’ history in Ohio. With 235 previous trips, Eldora is already the most visited track for the nation’s top talent.

Five more nights of Ohio racing in May await after Eldora along with a trio in July and two more in September including a return to Wayne County Speedway. Overall, the 2024 calendar boasts 12 Ohio races at six racetracks – all adding new chapters to the long and impactful history between the World of Outlaws and the “Buckeye State.”

WORLD OF OUTLAWS 2024 OHIO RACES

May 3-4 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH (TICKETS)
May 17 at Attica Raceway Park in Attica, OH (TICKETS)
May 18 at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, OH (TICKETS)
May 24-25 at Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, OH (TICKETS)
May 27 at Fremont Speedway in Fremont, OH (TICKETS)
July 16 at Attica Raceway Park in Attica, OH (TICKETS)
July 19-20 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH (TICKETS)
September 27 at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, OH (TICKETS)
September 28 at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, OH (TICKETS)

If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.

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