From asphalt to dirt, the Camping World Truck Series transitions to the high-banked clay oval of Eldora Speedway on July 23 for the second consecutive season. The only dirt track on the schedule, Eldora will challenge even the most seasoned of veterans as it remains unique to the truck series among national series schedules.
Eldora is the only race to award the winner a golden shovel that helps to carry on the “ceremonial digging” tradition instituted at the inaugural event, when the race winner scoops dirt from the track as a keepsake. FOX Sports 1 offers coverage of practice, qualifying and the qualifying races throughout the day, with the green flag start scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
Diggin’ the Dirt
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and NCWTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Tyler Reddick will use their dirt racing backgrounds to their advantage as both drivers have experience in navigating the turns of Eldora.
In 2012, Reddick became the youngest driver to start in the World 100 at Eldora. At 16 years old, he was one of 123 entries in the annual dirt Late Model event and started on the outside pole, leading the first three laps. Although Reddick now focuses primarily on trucks, he recently made his first 2014 dirt Late Model start on July 4, and then won his second start the next day at Highland Speedway in Illinois.
Larson is also a household name at Eldora as the driver has frequented the track on many occasions. In his first visit in September 2011, he became the second driver to sweep all three USAC features in the 4-Crown Nationals, finding Victory Lane in the National Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown Series’ events. Since then, Larson created his own sprint car team, Larson Marks Racing in 2014 and experienced his first win as an owner when driver Shane Stewart won the World of Outlaws STP Series at Eldora earlier this year.
Eldora has been good to Larson and Reddick in the past and with many drivers having limited experience on dirt, familiarity of the track could be the key to success.
The Challenge May Favor Others with Experience
The path to the finish is not easy, as the format at Eldora gives drivers a unique challenge. With five qualifying races and a Last Chance Race, drivers must stay focused on running at the front. Ken Schrader, Jared Landers, Timothy Peters, Jeb Burton and Kenny Wallace were the drivers to beat in qualifying last season, but it was Norm Benning who stole the show in the Last Chance Race, beating and banging his way across the finish line to make the inaugural starting lineup. He’ll make an anticipated return on Wednesday.
Although some drivers have become acquainted with Eldora, almost half of the entries have yet to make a truck series start at the dirt track.
NASCAR Veteran Ken Schrader makes his return to the Truck Series at Eldora Speedway where he became the oldest pole winner in NASCAR national series history last season at the age of 58. It was his second career pole in the series and first since 2004.
Schrader has a strong dirt racing background, competing at local tracks around the country for his team, Ken Schrader Racing. He is coming off a recent win at the dirt track of El Paso Speedway (KS) in the IMCA Xtreme Motor Sports Modified Series on July 19.
Schrader began competing in the Camping World Truck Series in 1995, posting one career-series win at Saugus Speedway (CA) that same year. In 101 starts, he has accumulated 11 top-five and 36 top-ten finishes.
Busy Week on Tap for a Few
Series’ regular John Wes Townley is competing in five races over an eight-day span. He, along with Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson and Nationwide driver Ty Dillon competed in the Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway. All three will get their midweek racing fix at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday and will then head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Larson will hit a total of four races, competing in each national series while Dillon’s schedule includes three.
Townley began his five-race stint starting on the ARCA Racing Series pole for the first time this season at Chicagoland before jumping into the driver’s seat in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 on Saturday night. Now Townley is at Eldora and continues to build on a career-best season in which he has earned two top-five and three top-ten finishes in the Truck Series. Following the Wednesday night showdown, he will find himself back in the ARCA Racing Series at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, and capping off his whirlwind week with his Nationwide Series début at the Brickyard.
Summer Heats Up Championship Battle
Seven points is all that separates the top-three drivers in the points standings. Defending champion Matt Crafton overtook teammate Johnny Sauter to regain the points lead following a third-place showing at Iowa Speedway. Sauter fell to third as a runner-up finish by Ryan Blaney put the driver in second, just two points behind Crafton. Comparing the three…..
Crafton is the only driver to visit Victory Lane, earning wins at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year. He owns the highest average driver rating (106.7) and has led almost two times the number of laps Sauter and Blaney have led combined. With an average finish of 9.8 in the next three-race stretch, experience is on his side.
Blaney has been the biggest mover, earning 84 points in the last three races to jump from fifth to second. He also owns the highest average finish (8.1), reinforced by five top-five and seven top-ten finishes this season. Although he has yet to win a race, Blaney is the only driver to have earned a victory in one of the next three races (Pocono – 2013).
Sauter is one of two drivers to have remained in the top-five in points standings all season (Ron Hornaday Jr.). Prior to an 18th-place finish at Iowa Speedway, he was the most consistent of the three with five consecutive top-ten finishes. Look for Sauter to rebound and continue to build his championship run.
Austin Dillon Digs In
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon returns to Eldora Speedway as the defending 1-800 Car Cash Mudsummer Classic race winner. In 2013, Dillon became the first driver in 43 years to win a NASCAR national series race on dirt. Richard Petty was the last to carry out the feat in September 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
In the inaugural event at Eldora, Dillon led a race-high 64 laps, posting a 127.3 driver rating on his way to Victory Lane. He returns to the track with limited seat time in the truck series, but that has not stopped him in the past. After winning the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, Dillon has made six series starts, posting five top-ten finishes. In three starts this season, he has yet to finish outside the top-ten.
Noteworthy in the Camping World Truck Series
German Quiroga was in Los Angeles, CA on July 17, attending the first annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards as a special guest.
Ben Kennedy participated in batting practice with the Arizona Diamondbacks before attending their game against the Detroit Lions in Phoenix on July 21.
Gray Gaulding, 16, and John Hunter Nemechek, 17, will make their third and fourth series starts as they run a limited schedule due to age limits.
Toyota has won the last 11 races, dating back to Phoenix International Raceway in November 2013.
It’s a family affair at Eldora Speedway for brothers Ty and Austin Dillon who race together in the truck series for the first time since November 2013 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.