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In his first-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, 18-year-old Bobby Pierce wowed fans and critic, making history for the oldest team in the series in the process.
Pierce, who typically competes in dirt late models, ran an aggressive race after winning the 21-Means-21 Pole Award and never fell outside of the top five en-route to a runner-up showing in the 1-800-Car-Cash Mud Summer Classic at Eldora Speedway.
Pierce, who watched the 2014 edition of the midweek race from the grandstands, drove a masterful race, making short work of inaugural winner Austin Dillon and stalking winner Christopher Bell throughout the night despite his No. 63 RPM Services Inc. Chevrolet sustaining heavy rear-end damage in the late stages of the race.
“Whenever I hit the wall with the truck I made sure it was the back end,” said Pierce. “I tried to keep the front end out of it, but a couple of times we got up in there. That’s just what happens when you’re really going for it at the end.”
Pierce accomplished the feat while driving for Mittler Brothers Motorsports, the oldest team in the NCWTS paddock. Pierce’s drive was the best in the team’s 21-year history, giving them their first pole award and first top-five finish.
MBM, owned by Mike Mittler, has existed in the Truck Series since the series’ inception in 1995. The team has fielded future stars including Carl Edwards, Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski, who Pierce beat in Wednesday’s race.
“With the Mittler Brothers,” Pierce said. “Carl Edwards, Justin Allgaier, there are a lot of good guys, Brad Keselowski, that (Mike Mittler) supported when they were younger. That’s a really cool history, and it kind of goes along with Eldora with Earl (Baltes) and everything.
“This is definitely one of my most favorite tracks. It’s really cool both for this to be my first NASCAR Truck race and to be at Eldora. It’s a lot of history all in one. “
Despite being an unknown entering the race, Pierce established himself early and often at the Rossburg, Ohio track, running inside the top five on the speed charts in both of the day’s practice sessions, and following it with a pole lap during qualifying.
“I was getting a lot of confidence once I qualified that good,” said Pierce. “I got lucky that I kind of went early, when there was moisture left. That really helped us throughout the night.
I think a lot of guys were kind of nervous about the [No.] 63 truck, so that makes me feel pretty good.“
Pierce’s success continued into the night’s heat and feature races. The rookie easily pulled away to claim his heat, and kept himself in the front during the 150-lap race, leading four times for 39 laps in the process.
“It’s a lot of fun when you’re racing that close,” said Pierce. “These trucks aren’t as fast as what we run in the late models we normally race, but the racing is almost better because everyone is so tight.”
Despite his run, there are currently no plans for Pierce to make any more NASCAR starts this season. Still, Pierce has hope that he may someday return to NASCAR.
“I think almost every racer that gets this far almost has that in the back of their mind,” said Pierce. “I’ve got some sponsors such as RPM Services Inc., and they’re talking about hopefully getting some more races. That’s why I’ve been racing some asphalt lately, just in case anything were to happen where I get some NASCAR races.”