Eldora Speedway has named veteran motorsports executive Jerry Gappens as its new general manager, succeeding Roger Slack, who has decided to call time on his 12-year career at Eldora.
Gappens comes to Eldora from Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway where he has been the promotor of the quarter-mile, dirt oval since 2018. Prior to his tenure at Gas City, Gappens spent 23 years with Speedway Motorsports, specifically serving as executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for eight years (2008-2015) and senior vice president of events and marketing of Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for 15 years (1993-2007).
Slack, the outgoing general manager of Eldora who has spent more than three decades in motorsports, is taking a sabbatical from the industry.
“Jerry Gappens brings a ton of experience to Eldora Speedway that will allow us to deliver the best fan experience possible, as well as the best experience for all the racers who compete at our track,” said Eldora owner Tony Stewart, who purchased the track from the legendary Earl Baltes in 2004. “Jerry knows grassroots racing from being at Gas City and he also knows how to put on big events from his time at New Hampshire and Charlotte.
“I know from my own experience racing at New Hampshire and Charlotte that Jerry genuinely cared about the amenities and overall environment the fans had in the grandstands and the drivers and teams had in the infield. He was visible, out and about, accessible, and no job was too small. The details mattered. It’s exactly what we need at Eldora.”
Carved from a cornfield in 1954, Eldora has become a leader in motorsports growth and sustainability. The half-mile, dirt oval hosts some of the most prestigious grassroots racing events in the world, and this year marks its 69th consecutive season of racing. Eldora’s 2022 racing slate begins April 26 with FloRacing Night in America featuring dirt late models, modifieds and Eldora stocks, and lasts through late September with the 4-Crown Nationals which includes the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, USAC National Midgets, Sprint Cars and Silver Crown, and the Tezos All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1.
“When Tony called and asked if I was interested in becoming the general manager of Eldora, I recognized immediately that this is a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gappens said. “Dirt racing is in my blood and Eldora is the most legendary short-track racing venue in the country. I’m thrilled to join the team at Eldora and work together to further its already outstanding legacy.
“I also want to thank Jack Himelick, owner of Gas City I-69 Speedway, for trusting me with the stewardship of his track for the past four years. I’m very proud of all that we accomplished together during that time, and I want to give a special and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the fans, staff and competitors for their support.”
The 60-year-old Gappens was introduced to racing by his father, Jerry Gappens Sr. The Gappens Family hailed from Tipton County, Indiana, and not long after Jerry Jr., was born, the two visited local dirt tracks, including Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway where Jerry Sr., raced in the 1960s.
“I remember riding in the truck with him on the way home with the racecar on the trailer behind us. I’d put his racing helmet on and fall asleep across the seat in the truck,” Gappens Jr., said. “He took me to my first Indy 500 when I was 8-years old back in 1969 and we didn’t miss an Indy 500 until I went to work at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”
The job of track promotor was taught to a young Gappens by his father, as Gappens Sr., promoted the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track for a couple of years while working at General Motors and raising a family.
“He really helped bring the Terre Haute Action Track back to life,” Gappens Jr., said. “It had been idle for a year or two. Our whole family went down there and cleaned it up and painted it and got some races back on the schedule.”
Gappens’ dad passed away in 2012, and during his time at Gas City, he honored his father with the Jerry Gappens Sr. Memorial Cup, an annual race that hosted the top sprint car drivers across the country.
“I’m fortunate to have two great parents and I appreciate all the time and energy they put into everything they did. Honoring dad was a way to recognize his legacy and his contributions to short-track racing,” Gappens said.
“I’m taking that same approach with all the great events Eldora has on tap this year, including the return of The Eldora Million on June 9, one of the most legendary events in the track’s history.”
The Eldora Million has only been run once before – in 2001 when Donnie Moran, the four-time World 100 winner, outdueled Don O’Neal, an eventual Dirt Late Model Dream champion, to take the $1 million payday.
The Eldora Million on June 9 will feature a full program of racing action with tournament-style preliminary features on June 8 that will set the event’s heat races before culminating with the $1 million-to-win championship feature.
The combination of two giant shows – The Eldora Million and the 28th running of the $128,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream June 10-11 – all in a span of four days – creates one of the richest open competition events in motorsports history with posted prize money in excess of $1.9 million.
All four days of racing from the Dirt Late Model Dream Week, including The Eldora Million, will be available worldwide exclusively on FloRacing, Eldora’s official livestream partner.
Tickets and camping spaces for all of Eldora’s 2022 events are on sale now exclusively at www.EldoraSpeedway.com, where fans can also sign up for breaking news and updates delivered via email or text message. Fans can also call the ticket office at 937-338-3815. The latest event information, including raceday schedule and weather updates, can be found on the official @EldoraSpeedway social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.