In a Nutshell: After a nearly 43-year absence from dirt racing, the Camping World Truck Series embarked on the unknown in its inaugural visit to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. When the dust settled, it was Austin Dillon who survived a green-white-checkered finish to grab the victory ahead of Kyle Larson in the Mudsummer Classic. Ryan Newman, who spent many of the closing laps beating and banging with his teammate Larson, finished third. Truck Series regulars Joey Coulter and Timothy Peters rounded out the top 5.
In a race that was slowed by a handful of legitimate debris cautions, there was only one yellow for a wreck on the track when Jared Landers spun, taking out Ty Dillon and Johnny Sauter along the way. Sauter and Jeff Babcock, who suffered an engine failure in the beginning of the second segment, were the only two drivers to post DNFs.
Race Rundown: Living Up to the Hype
Where do I begin? From the moment NASCAR released the 2013 Truck Series schedule, fans and media alike chattered with excitement and interest in the inaugural visit to Eldora Speedway. And in the weeks leading up to the inaugural Mudsummer Classic, the hype built to levels that I feared it wouldn’t be able to stand up to. Man was I wrong … and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Beginning with the five heat races to set the field to the last chance qualifier, it was clear that 150 laps wouldn’t feel like enough when the checkered flag finally flew, and that couldn’t have been more accurate. Once Austin Dillon took the victory, I found myself wanting to turn back the clock and do it all over again, and though it wasn’t a scientific study by any means, the general consensus on Twitter was that many felt the same. In fact, Wednesday night was the first time I can remember following along with an event on Twitter and seeing nothing but positive comments.
Of course there was plenty of beating, banging and crumpled sheet metal to go around by the time the checkered flag flew, but was that really any different than any other dirt race on your local track? The racing was so entertaining throughout the entire event that I almost forgot it was a points race until SPEED showed their update near the end of the broadcast. But perhaps the most important part about this race was the spotlight that sat squarely on not only the Truck Series, but on the excitement that is dirt track racing. For those that have never taken in an event at their local track and have instead always hit the big tracks on the NASCAR circuit, it was a chance to see the kind of action that brings people out each and every week to the small venues all over the country.
The bottom line is that the racing lived up to the hype and didn’t turn into the wreckfest that many feared. Instead, it was a hit and NASCAR would be wise to keep this event on the schedule for many years to come.
- Before the field took the green flag, the drivers lined up in a four-wide parade lap as a tribute to the fans. It’s not that the excitement level leading up to the green flag needed any increase, but that sure was a fun way to start off the series’ inaugural dirt track race.
- How cool was that victory celebration? Austin Dillon and his team joined on the track with a golden shovel for a ceremonial dirt digging. Each team member took home a part of the racing surface as a special reminder of their victory. Why can’t more tracks come up with unique celebrations like this one?
- Dirt track ringer Scott Bloomquist laid down the gauntlet earlier this week, declaring “we are going to win this race,” but it wasn’t meant to be for the 49-year-old. Though he was locked into the field based on owner points, the driver of the No. 51 Toyota dropped through the field, complaining of loose conditions and fell off of the lead lap midway through the first segment. It was a deficit he was unable to recover from and ultimately settled in to a 25th-place finish, two laps behind.
- Did you see Brendan Gaughan and Ty Dillon cheering for Norm Benning as he raced his way into the event through the last chance qualifier? Benning held onto the fifth spot as the caution flew with just three laps remaining to set the final five spots in the main event Wednesday night, and though he had to restart on the inside line where most drivers lost ground in the early parts of the night, Benning wasn’t content to just sit idly by and watch the race fall out of his hands. Instead, he forced his way up into the high line, ruffling Clay Greenfield’s feathers in the process, and though Greenfield did his share of beating and banging against the No. 57 on the final lap, nearly spinning Benning off of his front bumper, Greenfield came up short and Benning made the race. And Benning even offered a friendly one-fingered salute to Greenfield after the checkered flag flew. Though he ultimately ended up finishing 26th, four laps down to the winner, Benning should count his visit to Eldora as a win for his self-funded effort in the Truck Series.
Despite the trepidation many drivers likely held coming into Eldora, the top 5 in points remains unchanged, with Matt Crafton still leading the charge by 48 markers over Jeb Burton. Defending champion James Buescher sits just three points behind his teammate in third, while Ty Dillon is fourth. Johnny Sauter rounds out the top 5, holding a tie-breaker over Timothy Peters, who has jumped five spots in the last two races.
Brendan Gaughan sits seventh, tied with rookie Ryan Blaney after jumping two spots in a nice recovery from two straight bad finishes at Kentucky and Iowa. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. sits ninth, and Miguel Paludo, who dropped three spots rounds out the top 10.
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads Pocono Raceway on Saturday, August 3rd. The Pocono Mountains 125 will be televised on live SPEED beginning at 1:10 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.
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