JOHNNY APPLESEED CLASSIC RETURNS SUNDAY NIGHT
ROSSBURG, Ohio (May 23, 2017) – There is no holiday weekend more synonymous with auto racing than Memorial Day weekend and at Eldora Speedway that means it is time for the Johnny Appleseed Classic by Miller Lite, the oldest annual event on the track’s schedule.
The high-banked half-mile oval hosts the time-honored event and celebrates the holiday weekend with a tripleheader program of racing with a special Sunday (May 28) evening affair this weekend.
Headlining the Johnny Appleseed Classic by Miller Lite will be the second 2017 appearance of the Sunoco American Late Model Series (ALMS), as well as the DIRTcar UMP Modified and Eldora Stock Car divisions. All three divisions will be racing for increased prize money spread throughout the field on Sunday night.
Begun in 1970 at Mansfield Raceway as a tribute to American nurseryman legend Johnny Appleseed, the annual event continued there through 1987. The next season, Eldora founder Earl Baltes, who also owned the Mansfield facility at the time, moved the Classic to Eldora Speedway, where it has remained a fixture since.
The Late Model division has always been the headlining division for the Appleseed, which, remarkably, has only had one rain cancellation in its storied 47-year history. Originally held during the fall months to honor Appleseed’s (John Chapman) September birth date, the race was moved to its current Memorial weekend time slot in 2008. It now serves as a tune-up for the rich $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream Weekend presented by Ferris Mowers, scheduled for Thursday-Friday-Saturday, June 8th-9th-10th.
Thirty-five different Dirt Late Model drivers have claimed Johnny Appleseed victories but as of late the race has been dominated by Matt Miller. The Whitehouse, Ohio driver has won the last three Appleseed Classics and five of the last six. His only hiccup since 2011 came in 2013 when Jeff Babcock won his only Johnny Appleseed Classic.
A look through the record books shows that Shane Yoder is a three-time winner of the race and also won three in a row from 1994-96, while John Lawhorn (1981, 1989), Larry Yantis (1984, 1985), Larry Scott (1986, 1987), Kris Patterson (1993, 1998) and Brian Ruhlman (2002, 2005) have multiple wins. Some other previous winners of the Johnny Appleseed Classic include former World 100 winners Floyd Gilbert, Charlie Swartz and Brian Birkhofer, as well as Eldora legends Chick Hale and Jack Hewitt. Former winners of the race still active in Dirt Late Model racing include the ageless Delmas Conley, Jerry Bowersock, Jeep VanWormer, Josh Richards, Brian Ruhlman, Duane Chamberlain and Rusty Schlenk.
The DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and the Eldora Stock Cars have both contested two events thus far in 2017, with last weekend’s Family FIREWORKS Night by Aaron’s falling due to rain, and both divisions have seen two different winners.
West Virginia’s Jacob Hawkins and Canadian Joel Dick each won DIRTcar UMP Modified A-Features in Eldora’s April kickoff events. Hawkins dominated the 64th Season Opener while a week later Dick held on for his first career win during the Saturday Speedfest program on April 22.
Veteran driver Jerry Bowersock, of Wapakoneta, has finished runner-up in both events and leads the point standings heading into Sunday’s event. Dick is currently second in the season-long point’s battle, while Pennsylvania driver Evan Taylor is in third-place and Piqua’s Josh Morton and second-generation driver Dylan Woodling are tied for fourth-place.
Four-time and defending track champion Rob Trent, of Lima and Georgetown, Kentucky veteran Earnie Woodard have garnered the two Stock Car checkered flags. Woodard appeared headed to the win on opening night before mechanical issues ended his night three laps short of the checkered flag. His departure handed the lead and eventual win to Trent.
One week later, a determined Woodard returned and made a late charge to pick up his first win of the 2017 season.
Trent finds himself in his familiar spot atop the standings after the first two races. He is eight markers ahead of Dayton’s Donnie Jeschke while former champion Frank Paladino is in third-place and Gary Rahe, Jr. and Brandon Archey round out the top five.
Gates open on Sunday at 4 p.m., hot laps are scheduled for 6 p.m., with show time scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
About Eldora Speedway:
Since carved from a cornfield in the natural amphitheater that existed between the Eldora Ballroom and the Wabash River by bandleader Earl Baltes in 1954, Eldora Speedway has grown to be a frontrunner in motorsports growth and stability. Baltes chose to sell the legendary high-banked clay oval to motorsports entrepreneur and NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC champion Tony Stewart in 2004. Celebrating its 64th season in 2017, Eldora hosts the biggest events in short-track racing including the 23rd annual Dirt Late Model Dream; the 34th annual Kings Royal Weekend; the Camping World Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby – the only NASCAR National Series race on dirt; and the 47th annual World 100. The complete schedule for Eldora’s 64th consecutive season, including ticket and campsite information, will be available soon at www.EldoraSpeedway.com and can be requested by phone at (937) 338-3815. Fans can get behind-the-scenes access of Eldora Speedway by following @EldoraSpeedway on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, hitting ‘Like’ at www.facebook.com/EldoraSpeedway and subscribing to www.youtube.com/EldoraSpeedway.