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Eldora Speedway

Flip up your cap bill for #NationalEarlDay

June 8, 2016, 9:18 am
By Joshua Joiner
Special to DirtonDirt.com
The famed flipped-up bill of Earl Baltes. (DirtonDirt.com)
The famed flipped-up bill of Earl Baltes. (DirtonDirt.com)

During the 50 years the late Earl Baltes owned and operated Eldora Speedway, anyone visiting the track for the first time would have had very little trouble picking out the man in charge.

Baltes, who built the Rossburg, Ohio, track in 1954 and promoted the historic half-mile oval until selling it to NASCAR star Tony Stewart in 2004, was easy to spot with his famous flipped-up cap bill. The quirky fashion statement, along with Baltes’ straight-shooting personality, was part of a persona beloved by fans and racers alike. | Complete Dream coverage

At Eldora’s Dream XXII presented by Ferris Mowers this weekend, the dirt racing community will honor the unique man in a unique way. Thursday, June 9, 2016, has been officially designated as the first ever National Earl Day in honor Baltes. Eldora Speedway officials even went so far as to register the date with nationaldaycalendar.com.

Race fans both at the track and worldwide are encouraged to help celebrate the Baltes legacy by flipping up the bills of their caps in the famous Earl Baltes fashion and posting photos on social media using the hashtag #NationalEarlDay.

Long-time Eldora Speedway race director Larry Boos worked closely with Baltes for many years. He’s confident that Baltes would have loved Eldora’s creative homage to him, even if he didn’t fully understand it.

“It’s a very fitting way to remember and honor Earl for everything he’s done not only for Dirt Late Models but for all of racing,” Boos said. “Any time a fan would come up to him and flip their hat up or want to take a picture with him, he’d be like a kid in a candy store; he just loved that kind of stuff.

“Would Earl have understood the hashtag and all this social media stuff? Absolutely not. But he would certainly have appreciated people taking the time to honor him like this.”

Baltes, who died in March of 2015 at the age of 93, was a pioneer in dirt track racing. He carved out Eldora’s original quarter-mile configuration from a cornfield in 1954 and spent 50 years building it into a dirt racing mecca. With Baltes at the helm, Eldora became famous for hosting many of dirt track racing’s biggest events, including two annual Dirt Late Model crown jewels in the Dream and September’s World 100. The Eldora Million that paid race winner Donnie Moran $1 million in 2001 was the richest dirt race in history.

According to Baltes’ biographer Dave Argabright, Baltes’ signature flipped-up bill actually originated out of necessity. A promoter who always took a hands-on approach, Baltes found that when grading the track his cap would often be knocked off when he leaned against the windshield in the cab of the track’s grader. Flipping the bill up was a quick fix that allowed him to watch carefully as the grader blade cut the track surface.

By chance one day, Baltes forgot to flip his bill back down after exiting the grader. After receiving many jokes and friendly jibes for his unusual look, Baltes realized that his flipped-up cap made him more memorable to fans. An astute promoter, Baltes seized the moment and the flipped-up bill became part of his persona.

“Earl loved being the center of attention, and he would have loved the idea of National Earl Day,” Argabright said. “Most of all he enjoyed the idea of people having fun, and that's probably the thing I'll always remember most about him. He could be tough as nails, but at his heart he loved people and he loved making them happy.”

“It’s a very fitting way to remember and honor Earl (Baltes) for everything he’s done not only for Dirt Late Models but for all of racing. Any time a fan would come up to him and flip their hat up or want to take a picture with him, he’d be like a kid in a candy store; he just loved that kind of stuff."

Larry Boos, Eldora Speedway race director

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