Austin Dillon grabbed a fistful of red clay history Wednesday night, claiming the checkered flag in the inaugural running of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Mudsummer Classic” at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway dirt track.
Dillon withstood stiff challenges from youngster Kyle Larson and veteran Ryan Newman in the late going, then survived a green-white-checkered flag restart to win in NASCAR’s return to the dirt for the first time since 1970.
"It's amazing," said Dillon in Victory Lane. “I love dirt racing. We’ve had an up-and-down season in the Nationwide Series, so this is awesome. This is real racing right here.”
Dillon, a former Truck Series champion with an extensive dirt racing resume, took command when leader Larson made contact with the truck of German Quiroga while attempting to lap him, briefly losing momentum and allowing Dillon to slip past. The two raced wheel-to-wheel for several laps in the late going, but Larson was never able to regain the lead.
Ken Schrader – who earlier in the evening became the oldest pole winner in series history at age 58 -- led the first 15 laps before being passed by Timothy Peters. Peters paced the next 23 circuits, until a textbook slide job by Larson moved him to the lead. The race was filled with side-by-side racing and contact between trucks, though only on major crash slowed the 150-lap event. That came early in the final, 40-lap segment when outside pole sitter Jared Landers spun on the backstretch and collected Ty Dillon, younger brother of the race winner. Dillon hit the wall, with Jeb Burton and Johnny Sauter also suffering damage.
"We had the best truck for sure," said a disappointed Larson afterward. "(But) I got overly excited in lapped traffic and got into the back of somebody and Austin got by."
Larson and Turner-Scott teammate-for-a-day Ryan Newman swapped sheet metal on the final restart, with Larson finishing second and Newman third. Joey Coulter and Brendan Gaughan completed the Top-5. “I had to use my teammate up a bit,” said Larson, “but I knew we had the best truck and I was going hard for the win. I just came up a little bit short.”
Newman asked for Larson’s address, saying, “I want to mail him the left side of this truck.”