History

The History of the Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame

The history of dirt Late Model racing can be traced back to the origins of the automobile and competitive auto racing itself. However, what is viewed in today’s terms of a “dirt Late Model” has grown, flourished and evolved substantially over the decades. Today, the evolution of dirt Late Model racing as it has become today began to form around 1965 when technology in the sport had its birth.

By 1967 this particular form of motorsports had begun to attract more and more competitors and race fans which then resulted in higher paying, higher-profile racing events. By 1971 promoter Earl Baltes produced his first WORLD 100 dirt Late Model race that paid the winner the then-unheard of sum of $4,000 to win. Today, the race has become commonly known as the “granddaddy of all dirt Late Model races” and annually attracts in excess of 200 race teams and over 30,000 race fans. In 2002 the WORLD 100 paid winner Brian Birkhofer of Iowa $34,000.

Since 1971 several sanctioning groups have formed and produce high-profile major racing events all across the United States in front of full grandstands with race teams utilizing state-of-the-art equipment. Today’s ultra-modern dirt Late Models are “factory” produced and can cost a team nearly $100,000 to assemble a car, motor and other necessary equipment.

Since the 1960’s, when dirt Late Model racing usually paid $200-400 to win a main event, today it is not unusual to attend sanctioned races that pay $15,000, $20,000, $30,000, $50,000 and $100,000 to win. In 2001 there was even a MILLION DOLLAR TO WIN dirt Late Model race at Eldora Speedway.

Today dirt Late Model racing, in the world of short track racing, holds an esteemed position in terms of teams that compete, racetrack facilities that host the events and the untold thousands of race fans that attend weekly. It is now televised on television and has a major presence in every major auto racing trade publication as well as some mainstream outlets.

Dirt Late Model racing has grown and expanded on such a broad base that even internationally known NASCAR Winston Cup drivers compete occasionally in dirt Late Model events across the country, so exciting, competitive and accepted has the sport become.

Dirt Late Model fans, drivers, promoters, car owners, sanction officials and sponsors have asked for years: Why isn’t there a National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame? Nearly every other form of motorsports has one, some have multiple ones. But none for dirt Late Model racing.

Until now.

During 2001 while conversing with a group of people involved in the sport, longtime motorsports journalist Bill Holder poised the question once again. And soon found himself with a new mission: the all-new National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. It is now a reality and the first induction ceremony took place later in August at Florence Speedway during their annual NORTH-SOUTH 100.

“It came about by just a lot of people saying, ‘how come the Sprints and Midgets have a Hall of Fame and the dirt Late Models, which obviously have ten times more cars, doesn’t have one?’” explained Bill Holder. “I got to talking with CJ (Rayburn) and them and everyone was standing there and looked at me and said, ‘why don’t you do it?’ (laughs).”

“I’m retired now and not doing anything except racing so I got together with a voting board which consists of media, sanctioning body heads, promoters, engine builders and car builders. We initially decided there would be five active drivers with at least 15 years experience, five retired drivers who have been retired at least five years, and then five major contributors to the sport. The ballots and voting was completed a couple weeks ago.” NOTE: Hall of Fame nominating criteria has since been changed.

“The inaugural induction ceremonies are emceed by Bret Emrick and Ozzie Altman,” offered Holder. “Jerry King (Florence promoter) has been very cooperative with us on this. We think it will be an ideal time and place since everyone will be there. We’re looking forward to having a really good deal.”

(sign posted in front of Florence Speedway)

“We’re a 501C3, non-profit organization,” said Holder. “There is no money involved in this. It is strictly volunteer. We have 30 members on the voting board. The guys that got the most votes who did not get elected will be written in next year as the top candidates. Everything is suggestion, though.”

There would be a HoF before a building to house it was built. There was that little problem of money which had to be raised.

“I came up with the idea of getting a brand-new Dirt Late Model built and then raffle it off. The goal was to get one for free and then all the money from the raffle would be for the Hall. I was able to do it as dozens of manufacturers supplied me free their particular parts and pieces,” Holder explained.

(the raffled late model)

After the car was completed it was carried to many tracks where fans reacted solidly buying about $50,000 worth of tickets. The winner was selected at the Induction Ceremony in 2002 with new inductee Billy Moyer drawing the winning ticket.

(the HoF building being assembled)

It would be another year until the 2500 square foot HoF building was completed. It was decided that office panels would be used to display photos, articles, and memorabilia. Also, the walls were adorned with sheet metal doors which were supplied by the driver inductees each year.

Holder continued, “We have been fortunate to acquire some real race cars with HoF inductee connections. As of early 2010, there were the cars of John Mason, Jeff Purvis, Bob Pierce, and one driven by Larry Moore, Rodney Combs, and Chuck McWilliams. In addition, inductees have donated uniforms, helmets, shoes, trophies, you name it. In fact, two inductees have actually donated their World 100 winning trophies.”

With space at a minimum, use has also been made of the ceiling where five authentic car bodies have been hoisted up to the ceiling, a job that was quite a challenge.

Another space saving idea involved the building of a pair of tubular steel ‘stackers’ where a car could be elevated to about six feet in height while another could be rolled underneath.

In early 2010, work was undertaken for an addition on the south side of the HoF. The addition will be a tent-like structure which will house a number of additional cars which are expected. Plans call for the dimensions to be about 30×40 feet.

Finally, it must be mentioned that this is a hall of fame for all dirt stock car racing fans. But in order for it to continue, financial support is required. While other national hall of fames have sponsors, such is not the case here. All the officers and helpers are dedicated volunteers.

Should any fan or company be interested in supporting the Hall financially, please contact Director Bill Holder at 937-122-0924 (billholder@webtv.net). Remember, this is a 501C3 not-for-profit organization and the contributions are tax-deductable.

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