When it comes to celebrating Eldora Speedway history, legendary racer Chick Hale is as much of an Eldora icon as the track’s intimidating high banks, its unforgiving concrete walls and those famous slide jobs.
Barney Craig remembers coming to Eldora in the late 1960s to watch his dad race, often against Hale. Five decades later the Craig family is still in pursuit of him.
Barney Craig claimed his fourth stock car championship in 2012, tying him with Mike Dirksen for second all-time. They both trail the late Hale, who won six stock car championships and nine Eldora track titles overall. Both are Eldora records.
“I’m trying to catch him,” said Cridersville’s Craig, who piloted his No. 71C to yet another stock car feature victory during Eldora’s 60th season opener on Saturday. “He’s pretty much been the Eldora legend. Of course he had over 50 years here. I just started my 26th year. I still have a ways to go, that’s if my youngest son doesn’t take over for me before then.”
His son Tyler, a 7-year-old driver in the quarter-midgets, is a good bet to take over the family passion just like Barney did with his late father, Dale. He’s already taken over the trophy case, relegating some of Craig’s older trophies to the attic or garage. Craig’s trophy from his 2012 championship remains in the house along with his 1992 trophy from his first championship.
On Saturday, Craig raced from third to first in a span of two laps. He used slide job to drop Shawn Phillipi into third, then chased down leader Chris Douglas. Craig caught Douglas on the next lap and passed high on the outside in Turns 3-4, using the momentum to outrun Douglas to the line and take the lead for good in the 15-lap feature.
While the veteran Craig scored another victory, a pair of drivers visited Eldora’s Victory Lane stage for the first time. Brian Post held off Jeff Babcock and Jerry Bowersock — two veteran drivers with a combined 32 modified wins — to lead all 18 laps of the feature.
“This is our first time in this car so this is awesome to come out here and beat the best modified drivers in the country,” Post said. “I want to thank the fans for coming out and my dad for believing we could win, especially here.”
In the Waynesfield Tuff Trucks feature, Logan Yelton temporarily lost the lead to Jerry Sawmiller on the final turn but used a slide job of his own to regain the lead and the momentum for his victory by 0.158 seconds.
“Man, I thought he had me. I took a chance and just dove,” Yelton said of that last-lap battle. “That’s good racing by Jerry, by everybody.”