By Carol Marsh
NEW WESTON — The wait is finally over as the 50th and 51st “World 100” is underway at Eldora Speedway, and people from all over the country have come to witness the excitement at the track. Drawing over 20,000 people for race nights, the race track is “home” for professionals, fans and race enthusiasts who set up their campsites and greet each other like old friends. While spectators fill the grandstands each evening, and drivers inch their way closer to the checkered flag, one chaplain looks to help others find their faith to finish an even bigger race off the track.
Russ Ward, a chaplain who has attended the World 100 Race for the past 36 years, is thrilled to be back at Eldora, especially after the COVID cancellations of 2020. Having given the opening night invocation and prayer at Wednesday night’s race, Ward hopes to connect with attendees throughout the weekend.
As a former race car driver and mechanic, Ward, along with his wife, Rochelle, travels around the country sharing the Gospel to those who may not be able to attend church due to the schedule of the race season. Their ministry, Dirt Racing Outreach (DRO), brings racing enthusiasts, fans and professionals within the sport together, under the shared experience of their faith in God through Jesus Christ.
When travelling, Ward uses his “Romans Road” Sprint ‘7’ Camaro as a conversation-starter about the Christian faith, and encourages young and old, to get behind the wheel, and think about their own life’s journey and race — where they have been and where they might be headed. This week, Ward has brought the Camaro to Eldora for those who would like to come down to the campground for a “meet and greet” — Lot 2, Row 8, Space 22 and 23.
“I’ve been a racer, mechanic, and a fan. I’ve worked on cars, driven them, owned them, and had a past, which I call Russ ‘B.C.’—Before Christ,” said Ward. “Now, God has me in a ministry within a sport that I love…I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to serve others!”
Dirt Racing Outreach (DRO) will be holding a free, outdoor service this Saturday, Sept. 11, at 2 p.m., at Eldora (outside of Turn 2, behind the Stone Brick House) which will include music, testimonies by professional racers and staff, along with a special message by Pastor Ralph Baker of the Brodhead Baptist Church (Brodhead, Ky.). Pastor Baker will preach a message on Acts 11: 1-14 entitled “Every Saint Has a Past, and Every Sinner has a Future.” While there will be some chairs, people should bring their chairs, if possible, or a blanket to enjoy the park-like atmosphere. Free parking is available in the General Parking Lot, off of North Star-Fort Loramie Road, and the service usually last a little over an hour. Services will also be livestreamed on the Dirt Racing Outreach (DRO) Facebook Page.
In past years, testimonies were given by Hudson O’Neal, Chris Ferguson, Anthony Burroughs, and Josh Richards, among others. Many drivers and racing professionals are featured in the DRO New Testament Bible, which the ministry gives to anyone who wishes to receive a copy.
“Our prayer is always, ‘God, I know you are at work all around us. Where will you have us meet you today?’” said Ward. “People from all walks of life come to the speedway, to the race. This community is like family…These are my people!”
After the World 100 concludes, Ward will be headed to Knoxville Iowa Speedway for the Late Model Nationals, where DRO will be ministering to race fans.
“God said 2021 is going to be a year of open doors,” said Ward. “It is so important to go. You never know who will be there or who will be listening, being at the right place at the right time.”
Questions about Dirt Racing Outreach? Just message Russ Ward via the DRO Facebook Page, email [email protected], or call 419-544-7014.
Want to learn more about Brodhead Baptist Church? Just reach Pastor Ralph Baker at www.brodheadbaptistchurch.org, or call 606-758-8316.
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for the Daily Advocate and Early Bird. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-4314.