(SYLVANIA, Ohio - December 29, 2012) - In most record books, you won't find Indiana's Earl Balmer listed as an ARCA winner at Daytona; yet, he won the first ever ARCA-sanctioned event at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway in 1964.
However, it's Nelson Stacy who went down in history as the inaugural Daytona ARCA winner, which debuted as a 250-miler in ‘64.
But, much like how NASCAR sets the field for the Daytona 500, there were actually two 50-mile qualifying races that led to the ultimate 250-mile big prize event, won by Balmer and Jack Bowsher the day before the big race at Daytona.
Fortunately for Balmer, he had already inked his name in the ARCA record books as an official winner on May 26, 1963, winning a 100-lap ARCA race at Salem Speedway. He went on to win six ARCA Racing Series events total, counting the Daytona qualifier in '64.
In addition to winning at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway on June 6, 1963, Balmer started the '64 ARCA season on a roll, winning three consecutive pole awards - the inaugural 250-mile race event at Daytona, and the two events that followed at San Antonio (Texas) Speedway on March 20 and Corpus Christi (Texas) Speedway on March 21. Balmer didn't stop there. He also won the back-to-back races at San Antonio and Corpus Christi from the pole.
His final ARCA win came on the Canfield (Ohio) Speedway half-mile dirt on May 29, 1964.
Balmer was born in Floyd Knobs, Indiana on December 13, 1935, and, like a lot of drivers in those days, shifted between ARCA and NASCAR where he made 32 starts in the Grand National Division. And like his ARCA career, which included the qualifier victory at Daytona, his lone NASCAR win came under similar circumstances, winning the second Daytona 500 qualifier in 1966. He led just the final lap, and was followed at the finish by Jim Hurtubise, Dick Hutcherson, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Bobby Isaac, Jim Paschal, G.C. Spencer and Frank Warren to complete the top-10 respectively. A.J. Foyt finished 11th.
Balmer may be best remembered for an incident during the 1966 Southern 500 NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway. The press box was located on the top of turn one, which gave journalists an excellent view of the start-finish line. On lap 189 of the 364-lap race, Balmer and Richard Petty touched, resulting in Balmer's car mounting the guardrail on top of turn one. Balmer's car spewed gas and debris up towards the press box, causing the journalists inside to duck for cover. No one was injured, but the journalists handed a petition to track management asking to be moved to a safer location.
Balmer was also involved in the infamous first-lap, 37-car pile-up in the NASCAR Sportsman division at Daytona in 1960.
Balmer is also remembered for setting the 1965 speed record for the Mercury manufacturer in the Darlington Race Club, which revolved around qualifying records set during time trials for the annual Southern 500 held on Labor Day weekend. Balmer's entry into the club would be secured with a top speed of 136.551 mph while qualifying for the 1965 Southern 500.