ROSSBURG, Ohio – Steve Casebolt Jr. considers winning the World 100 at Eldora Speedway a long shot this weekend. Maybe that’s exactly what the Richmond, Ind., resident needs to snap a season-long racing funk.
So far this year, there have been two stunning triumphs celebrated in small-town communities near Casebolt’s home. On July 8, a Cambridge City, Ind., gas station sold the lone winning ticket to the $540 million Mega Millions jackpot. And on Aug. 15, New Madison’s Clayton Murphy won the bronze medal in the 800-meter run at the Rio Olympics, ending the United States’ 24-year medal drought in that event.
Both Cambridge City and New Madison are about 15 miles from Richmond.
Can Casebolt complete the trifecta and shock the World, too?
“We’ll be lucky to even get the car there,” Casebolt said on Tuesday, taking a break from his duties as owner of Sudz Car Wash in Richmond.
“We’ve been ran ragged on the World of Outlaws series. Our cars are beat up and wore out. We’ll go up there with what we’ve got. Pound out some body panels, hopefully find a new one laying around, pop some rivets on and go at it. We’ll be lucky to just make it there.”
Casebolt feels his car’s pain.
Running full-time with the World of Outlaws Craftsman® Late Model Series for the first time has taken its toll on car and competitor alike. But Casebolt – who sits sixth in WoO points – hasn’t found every rut on the track this season, even if it feels like it.
Casebolt has a pair of second-place finishes and 10 top-5 finishes in 55 races entering the World 100. He’s had some close calls, like leading the Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois on July 30, only to break a fan blade.
On Sunday he was second in his WoO heat race and ready to transfer at Selinsgrove Speedway in Pennsylvania before a flat tire did him in.
“It seems like every time we’re fast something breaks and every time we’re slow we can go lap after lap after lap,” said Casebolt, who has won at least three features every year since 2012 including five last year. “I think it’s just my luck. … It’s just hard for us to put it all together for whatever reason. But we’re staying after it and hope to come after it at Eldora and turn a not-so-good season around.”
Qualifying for the 46th annual World 100 would do exactly that.
Casebolt has two World 100 starts with finishes of 17th in 1999 and 18th in 2004.
Casebolt knows how to get around Eldora. He won the $100,000 Dirt Late Model Dream in 2007 and has qualified for the Dream six times, including the last two. A coveted globe trophy would complete the set of late model crown jewel victories at Eldora’s historic, half-mile dirt track.
“Everything was going right at that time. When I went to the Dream I was actually going there to win,” Casebolt said of that 2007 season. “I knew we had a car that was capable of winning the main event. At this point I’m not all that confident. I’m not going to rule it out. If the stars aligned right I definitely think we have the right equipment, I’m a good enough driver and I have a good enough team that we can win, I do think that. As far as confidence level, it’s nowhere near where it needs to be to go up there and compete for that win just because we haven’t been very good.”
Casebolt and car owner Tye Twarog, now in their second full season together, pull the No. C9 Riesbeck’s Food Markets/Lias Tire/Sudz Car Wash/JE Pistons/Keyser Manufacturing Co. sponsored Rocket chassis into Eldora with nothing to lose. As honest about his season as he is entertaining on Twitter, Casebolt knows what the C9 team is up against.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Casebolt said: “My last few weeks of racing have been downright embarrassing. But it’s World 100 week! I can be slow in front of a much bigger audience.”
The World 100 brings in many of the top dirt late model drivers in the country. And with them come cash, equipment and, just as important, crews.
Casebolt said he and Twarog have one full-time crew member that wrenches the car among other shop duties.
“It’s hard for one guy to do the work that four of those guys are doing (on bigger budget teams),” Casebolt said. “It is what it is.
“The racing thing is more of a hobby. We’re by no means on the level of a lot of the guys were racing with. But we do have the equipment to run out front and compete with the top teams. I think the difference between what we’re able to do and what teams like (Josh) Richards are able to do, we’re not able to dedicate ourselves 100 percent to racing. Business comes first and we’ll get to the race car when we can.”
Outside of the garage, Casebolt owns Sudz Car Wash, flips houses (he’s done about a dozen this year) and has some rental properties. He and his wife, Hayley, are also kept busy with their 2-year-old daughter, Harper.
Like Harper does with her dad, Casebolt also started attending races at Eldora at a young age with his father. Years later he had his first “Eldora moment” as a driver. In his debut at Eldora, Casebolt “somehow got to start on the pole for the feature.”
Lined up beside him? The legendary Jack Hewitt.
“I was like, ‘Wow what am I doing here? This is Jack Hewitt beside me.’ I’m 16 years old and I weighed 85 pounds soaking wet and wearing boots, yet here I am lined up next to Jack Hewitt on the pole for the feature,” said Casebolt, who finished fifth in the feature.
Casebolt hopes for another Eldora moment Saturday. That World 100 championship. He’d even settle for making the feature.
“I’d be happy to make the race and not get lapped,” he said. “That would be a career year whether you even finished another race that season or not.”
Tickets for the 46th World 100 Weekend events start at just $24 for Thursday and Friday’s preliminary nights featuring full racing programs capped by Twin 25-lap Features paying $10,000-to-win. Tickets to the electric atmosphere of Saturday’s World 100 start at $40. Reserved seating is $4 more. Children (12 and younger) are admitted free to General Admission seating for all World 100 Weekend action. Order online at www.EldoraSpeedway.com or by calling the Speedway Box Office at (937) 338-3815.
-Eldora Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Fayetteville Observer