NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver and former USAC champion Tony Stewart has purchased Eldora Speedway from legendary owner Earl Baltes.

Known as "Auto Racing's Showcase since 1954" thanks in large part to Baltes' vision and hands-on management, Eldora is a half-mile clay oval with an estimated seating capacity of nearly 20,000 that features some of the most prominent racing divisions in the country.

"Eldora was a premiere racing facility long before I started racing there in 1991, and it's our goal to build on the tradition Earl and his wife Berneice started back in 1954," said Stewart, whose new role as a track owner augments his team ownership in the World of Outlaws and USAC racing series.

"Eldora has been extremely successful for both its competitors and its fans. We have no intention of changing the look and feel of the race track. We want to maintain the Eldora experience fans have grown to love and appreciate over the years."

Signature events pioneered by Baltes will also continue. The World 100, The Dirt Late Model Dream, the King's Royal, the Mopar Thunder, the Eldora Clash, the USAC Buckeye Nationals and the UMP National Championship will all return in 2005, as will its regular order of weekly racing action. And while not yet official, the 2005 racing schedule will be similar in scope to the 2004 calendar. Ticket information will remain available on www.eldoraspeedway.com or by calling (937) 338-3815.

"This is a bittersweet day," said Baltes. "This track has meant so much to me and my family, but it's also been a lot of work. The time has come for me to take a break. I wouldn't do it unless I knew the track was being left in the right hands.

"Tony Stewart is a true racer. He's raced here many times, but he's also been here as a car owner and as a spectator. He knows what Eldora is all about, and he's the perfect guy to run Eldora for the next 50 years."

With Baltes' retirement, Stewart has named Larry Kemp as promoter and general manager and Larry Boos as director of facility and race day operations.

"With the experienced staff we've put in place we're extremely confident we can follow in Earl's successful footsteps," said Stewart. "The history of Eldora is alive and well and no one wants to see this race track flourish more than me. Everyone can rest assured that Eldora is in good hands."