By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Throughout the latter half of the 1990s and into the decade of the 2000s, the USAC National Sprint Car schedule was filled to the gills with numerous trips to both Eldora Speedway and Winchester Speedway, making up about a third of the schedule between the two in several years.
Both blazingly fast half-mile, high-banked racetracks – one dirt and pavement – are where the bravest toiled, and where legends were made out of mere mortals in the pursuit of becoming the greatest of their generation.
The separation by those unfazed by the task at hand at these two storied venues and those who have a slight hesitance are more cavernous than the separation of just 30 miles between the two tracks which are divided right down the middle by the Ohio/Indiana state line.
However, for one weekend a year, Eldora and Winchester were paired together on the same weekend, an event succinctly christened as “Border Wars.” Race the sprint car at Eldora on Saturday night, grab a couple hours rest, rub the sleep out of the eyes when the sun rose and immediately get back to it on Sunday morning at Winchester.
What once seemed like a forlorn tale of yesteryear’s events gone by the wayside, will return this weekend, in a slightly different manner with a pair of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car races at Eldora on Friday and Saturday night, May 7-8, followed by a Sunday morning, May 9, visit to Winchester for the USAC Silver Crown season opener.
The first official Border Wars weekend with the USAC National Sprint Cars came in 1995 with the most recent taking place in 2008. The path to a championship in those days was to be a consistent frontrunner on both dirt and pavement surfaces. Border Wars was a mini championship in itself, spread across a less than 24-hour period that was conducive to producing a foreshadow of the eventual USAC National series champion.
In fact, four of the nine Eldora/Winchester Border Wars weekend champions eventually did go on to capture that year’s USAC National Sprint Car driving title, including the first three: Tony Stewart (1995) and Brian Tyler (1996-1997). In fact, Tyler was the ultimate Border Wars king, winning its championship on four occasions during a five year span in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000.
Oddly enough, just like his 1996 season in which he became a USAC champion without a single victory during the 27-race campaign, Tyler came up empty handed without a Border Wars feature triumph. Tracy Hines tagged himself in Border Wars championship runs in 1999, 2002 and 2003. Cole Whitt owned the final one in 2008.
Only one driver has ever doubled-up with a dirt and pavement win at Eldora and Winchester during Border Wars – Tracy Hines, a Winchester winner in 2000 and an Eldora victor in 2008. Dave Steele (3 wins at Winchester) and Kevin Doty (2 at Eldora) also won multiple times, albeit at a single track.
Eldora Border Wars single time winners include while Frankie Kerr (1996), Kevin Huntley (1997), Derek Davidson (1999), Dave Darland (2000), J.J. Yeley (2002) and Boston Reid (2003). The list of Winchester one-timers during Border Wars consists of Kenny Irwin Jr. (1995), Chet Fillip (1997), Brad Armstrong (1998), Michael Lewis (2003) and Darren Hagen (2008).
Of note, half of the 1997 and 2002 Border Wars events were rained out with the other leg rescheduled for later in the year. Plus, there were a few years of Border Wars in which Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park was involved (2001) as well as Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway from 2004-2007 and in 2012.
However, the true heart and soul of Border Wars weekend began with Eldora and Winchester over a quarter-century ago. And, although there’s no point standings involved and includes different series, there are still a handful of drivers planning to double-dip in both, including Justin Grant, Logan Seavey and Matt Goodnight.
That brings a smile to my face and a warmth of nostalgia to my mind, back to when I was a kid traveling the two-lane state roads from track-to-track with my dad at the wheel.
Sleep be damned; rest can take a break. We were there to catch our favorite drivers in our favorite type of racecars tackle our dearest and most treasured racetracks during a short time span with such a short drive/ride between the two.
It was a home away from home for one glorious weekend each year all those moons ago and remains so today. Nothing could’ve been finer then and nothing could be finer now.
This Friday and Saturday at Eldora, ticket sales begin at the main gate and turn 4 at 1:30pm ET; the turn 3 pit gate opens at 2pm; the spectator gates open at 2pm; and hot laps begin at 6pm with qualifying and racing for both divisions immediately following. Tickets for the dream doubleheader, featuring USAC and the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Cars together on consecutive nights, are on sale now at https://eldoraspeedway.com/tickets. All seats are reserved. If the capacity level isn’t met during pre-sales prior to the race, tickets will be available at the gate.
Sunday at Winchester, the pits open at 9am ET with the drivers meeting set for 10am, practice at 11am, Fatheadz Qualifying at 1pm, a driver’s autograph session at 2pm, opening ceremonies at 3pm and the 100-lap main event at 3:30pm. Reserved seats are $30 apiece, while general admission tickets are $20, and just $10 for children aged 6 to 12. Tickets are available in advance at www.winchesterspeedway.com/tickets.
All of this weekend’s races will be shown LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
ELDORA/WINCHESTER BORDER WAR WINNERS & CHAMPIONS:
1995 Champion: Tony Stewart
4/1/1995: Eldora Speedway / Kevin Doty
4/2/1995: Winchester Speedway / Kenny Irwin Jr.
1996 Champion: Brian Tyler
8/7/1996: Eldora Speedway / Frankie Kerr
8/8/1996: Winchester Speedway / Dave Steele
1997 Champion: Brian Tyler
5/4/1997: Winchester Speedway / Chet Fillip
6/22/1997: Eldora Speedway / Kevin Huntley
1998 Champion: Brian Tyler
5/2/1998: Eldora Speedway / Kevin Doty
5/3/1998: Winchester Speedway / Brad Armstrong
1999 Champion: Tracy Hines
5/1/1999: Eldora Speedway / Derek Davidson
5/2/1999: Winchester Speedway / Dave Steele
2000 Champion: Brian Tyler
4/29/2000: Eldora Speedway / Dave Darland
4/30/2000: Winchester Speedway / Tracy Hines
2002 Champion: Tracy Hines
4/28/2002: Winchester Speedway / Dave Steele
5/26/2002: Eldora Speedway / J.J. Yeley
2003 Champion: Tracy Hines
5/3/2003: Eldora Speedway / Boston Reid
5/4/2003: Winchester Speedway / Michael Lewis
2008 Champion: Cole Whitt
6/12/2008: Winchester Speedway / Darren Hagen
6/14/2008: Eldora Speedway / Tracy Hines