As they wheeled their dirt late models around Eldora Speedway’s historic high-banked, half-mile oval on Thursday evening, drivers Brian Gray and Mason Combs felt on top of the world — even if it was only for hot laps.
Now the trick is to stay there.
Eldora Speedway’s World 100 — the crown jewel of dirt late model racing — roared into action with Thursday’s qualifying and twin 25-lap features. The same setup follows on Friday with the 43rd World 100 on Saturday.
“My grandfather always told me, ‘If you’re going to go race against the best this is where you come.’ It’s been the goal to get here,” said Gray, who lives in Hamilton. “It’s taken this long for us to get up here. I didn’t want to just show up. I wanted to at least make a showing. I feel like we’ve got a good chance to do that.”
A total of 110 cars turned qualifying laps Thursday, including 10 former World 100 champs. Thirty-two of them will qualify for the World 100 on Saturday, a race that pays $46,000 to win and a minimum of $2,000 to start.
“Just to get experience,” Combs, a Springboro High School senior, said of why he strapped in for his first World 100. “Hopefully I can do this for the rest of my life, that’s what my plan is. I’d like to get up with these guys who have the big haulers and make a living out of it.”
Gray made his Eldora debut in the Blue Collar Bash last October and returned last Sunday for the Baltes Classic. Combs made his Eldora debut in the Classic, but it wasn’t his first visit to the Darke County track.
“I came out when I was probably 5 or 6 (for the World 100),” said Combs, who attended with his dad and former racer Darrell. “I remember there was a big crash in turn one and me and my dad walked down there. They were handing out pieces of the car to fans. … We came out a year ago and Dad was talking about how cool it’d be to see me on the track.”