Eldora Speedway opened their 2017 racing season over the weekend, with the UMP Late Models and Modifieds, with the famous Eldora Stock Cars on hand as well. Multiple rule changes were put into place by the track’s officials, some sanctioned by UMP and others by the track itself. During the past few weeks, drivers made their voice heard by making social media posts and contacting the track, asking for them to reconsider the changes or give the teams 2017 to get the funds together to pay for these adjustments.
It’s safe to say Eldora and the management there are sticking behind their modifications and leaving it up to the teams to find a way. As Saturday came, the pits look notably empty compared to season openers in 2015 and 2016, not mentioning when the track would attract over forty modifieds in recent years as well.
The midwest Ohio race track did not release official car counts for any division Saturday, but only fifteen UMP Late Models started the A-Main, 18 Modifieds took the green flag and 19 Eldora Stock Cars took to the track for their A-Main as well. This comes after years of cutting weekly events for the Modifieds and Stock Cars. Years ago, drivers could run almost a full season’s worth of races at the track, now the Modifieds are lucky to get close to 10 events, with three on one weekend when the UMP Fall Nationals come to town. This along with the UMP licenses required to compete in ANY Modified events that can cost over a hundred dollars have pushed drivers away to go to other tracks in the area.
One driver that has been outspoken on social media with this issue and decided to take the journey to Lawrenceburg Speedway instead of Eldora Saturday is Scottie Williams, who has been a fixture in the modified ranks at Eldora for many years. The Williams family have gone after points in many division at the track for the better part of the last three decades.
Scottie expressed his reasoning for not going to Eldora, along with suggestions on how to improve the situation and if he plans to return to the Speedway this season:
“We decided to go to Lawrenceburg instead of Eldora on April 15th due to finding out about some rule changes the day before the race. We want to race, and were told that if you didn’t have what they wanted that we were going to get told to load up, if that would have happened we wouldn’t have been able to go to any other race tracks to race over the weekend.”
Williams applauds the effort of the track, but thinks they shouldn’t have gone about it this way:
“They’re making these new rules for the safety of the driver, which I really think is awesome that they’re doing, I just didn’t agree with how they went about it. Me personally I wish they would have sat down with some drivers and also some other track owners, it wouldn’t have hurt to also have UMP there to discuss the steel plates on the side of the doors. Since we are talking safety I think that when the steel plate is being welded to the driver’s side, the chassis should be in a jig and the chassis builder should be the one doing the welding. This shouldn’t be something that you do at home. I’ve talked to a few engineers that agree 100% with me on this case.”
Scottie suggested they raise the pay to win an event in the Modified ranks on a weekly basis and possibly add more races to show they care about the local drivers. He also highlighted why some drivers in the Modified and Stock Car ranks have been angered by the tracks handling of things in recent seasons:
“It seems anymore that the Modifieds and Stock Cars at Eldora get the wrong end of the stick, there’s times where I feel we aren’t even wanted there and a lot of times we put on better shows than any of the other classes. When the Late Models or the Sprint(cars) are in town we kinda get shunned. I think if Eldora showed a little more that they care maybe a good word would get around and drivers would start coming! Last year there was always 30 to 40 modifieds, and 20 to 30 stock cars. The first race of this season, look what they had this year…. It seems they change things more and more each year, and we have to go buy more and more things each year just to run their track. They’ve made it to where the stocks can basically only run Eldora and not really anywhere else cause they would be at a disadvantage at any other track.”
Scottie Williams said he doesn’t plan on racing at Eldora in 2017, but says he can’t stay away forever and will return at some point. Dirt Unlimited reached out to Eldora earlier this year about these rule changes and the track did not reply.