Tucked into the hills and narrow winding roads of northeast Kentucky sits one of the fastest and toughest dirt tracks in the nation; Florence Speedway. The Walton, Kentucky track has been considered one of the toughest to tame by many of dirt Late Model racings fiercest competitors. Because of its reputation, Florence is also the perfectly fitting home of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
The NDLMHoF is comprised of founder Bill Holder and other excellent board members who are dedicated to honoring individuals who have had success wheeling a Dirt Late Model or who have formed the sport through their other contributions.
Since 2001 the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame has been honoring the sports best, and in 2003 they erected a 2500 square foot Hall of Fame museum on the grounds of Florence Speedway. The big blue building is now filled from floor to ceiling (literally) with memorabilia, cars, sheet metal, and pictures of the men and women who have formed our sport into what it is today.
In 2010 the Hall of Fame outgrew their existing building and now also features a nearly equally large tent with even more cars, some of which brought back awesome childhood memories.
The Hall of Fame itself is a treat, but with the annual induction ceremony held during one of the crown jewel events in the world of Dirt Late Model racing; the North/South 100. Florence is definitely a must-see for any Dirt Late Model fan.
This year I was incredibly excited to visit Florence and see my fellow Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame board member; Allan E. Brown be inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame. Allan undoubtedly shaped the sport of auto racing for any fan. His dedication and work on the National Speedway Directory made it possible for fans to double-dip on family vacations, and drivers to find their way to the track, and I know the “racers bible” has been used during countless rain-outs as fans and drivers alike scramble to find a speedway in drier areas.
Brown has also committed his life to preserving racing history through the publication of the History of America’s Speedways, as well as his volunteer work with Hall of Fame organizations throughout the nation.
Alongside Brown, the 2014 National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame class of inductees included the late Denny Bonebrake of Maryland, the “Kentucky Colonel” Steve Francis, the late Ed Gibbons whose no.07 will never be forgotten in South Carolina, Bob Kosiski of Nebraska, and Iowa’s Ken Walton, along with the late Walter Burson who was a dedicated technical inspector, and Iowa Car Owners Larry and Penny Eckrich. Also honored was Red Farmer (Sportsman Award), and Luke Hoffner & Fred King (Both Lifetime Achievement Awards).
The induction ceremony was held on the infield, just before the speedway came alive with the rumble of Lucas Oil Dirt Late Models battling for a $50,000 payday.
There is no doubt that watching the nations best competitors fighting for the win in the reacurring battle between the yankee’s and the rebels is exciting, and any anticipation was not in vain as the racing was nothing short of incredible. Scott Bloomquist jumped to the early lead from the pole, but outside pole sitter Jimmy Owens overtook the no.0 with his own no.20 machine. As the top five continued to battle through lapped traffic, the no.28 of Eddie Carrier Jr. was methodically picking up spots and with just a handful of laps left the “Salt Rock Express” jumped into the lead amid a collective cheer from the fans. Although Carrier now calls West Virginia home, there is no doubt as he put it, that, “He bleeds blue!” The Kentucky native picked up his biggest win of his career on home turf followed by Bloomquist and a hard charging Jimmy Mars (no.28).
It’s not often that you can see history honored and history made in the same day, but thanks to the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame and Florence Speedway, that is exactly what you can see every August during the North/South 100.
To learn more about the NDLMHoF, check them out on the web at http://ndlmhof.wordpress.com