Trucks Back on Dirt
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on July 23, 2014 | 9:53 A.M. EST
Erik Jones, who will make his first start on dirt, was fastest in the first practice session. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
ROSSBURG, Ohio - The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the dirt tonight for the second annual 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway.
Six of the top 10 finishers from the inaugural race will be returning for the 150-lap event led by defending winner Austin Dillon and runner-up Kyle Larson. The field of 30 drivers will be looking to accomplish what Dillon did last season and not only win the trophy but the golden shovel to be used to scoop up a chunk of the famed speedway's dirt surface and bottle it up for a keepsake.
"Winning the Truck Series race there last year was probably one of the most memorable wins of my career," Dillon said. "The track means so much to me because of my dirt racing background. It was a lot of fun and the track did some really cool things, such as letting each member of the team scoop up a piece of dirt from the track and keep it. I also got to take my picture with Richard Petty since he was the last driver before me to win on dirt. It's cool and it means a lot."
Dillon, who will drive the No. 2 American Ethanol Chevrolet, will join his younger brother Ty as part of a two-truck effort for Richard Childress Racing. They have only competed in the Truck Series against each other a total of six times with the 2013 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway being the last.
Larson, who swept USAC's 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora in 2011, will drive the No. 32 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports, joining teammates Ron Hornaday and Ben Kennedy. (Read More on Larson)
Joey Coulter, driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, was the top-finishing Truck Series regular last season, in fourth place. Since 2012, Coulter has also been racing Dirt Late Models in a number of events, most recently picking up the win at 311 Motor Speedway.
"Eldora Speedway is a 'wild card' in every sense of the phrase," Coulter said. "Even though most of the teams participated in the event last year, there is still a lot that can and will probably change for this year’s race. One of the most fun things about racing on dirt for me is that you never know what the track is going to be like until you get there. Last year, Eldora Speedway was hard-packed, slick and a little dusty."
Ken Schrader will return to Eldora after becoming the oldest pole winner in NASCAR national series history last season at the age of 58. Schrader, who recently won at El Paso County Speedway in the IMCA Xtreme Motor Sports Modified Series, will be driving the No. 52 Toyota.
NASCAR made a number of tweaks to the format this season including a random draw to determine the qualifying order and extending the qualifying races from eight to 10 laps. (See Race Format)
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will provide online coverage of the qualifying races starting at 7 p.m. (ET) followed by race coverage at 8 p.m. that will kick off with the Last-Chance Race. Last year, Norm Benning made headlines when he drove his way into the Feature after an exciting final lap in the Last-Chance Race. Today marks the first time Benning will hit the track with the No. 6 after swtiching from the No. 57.
"I always wanted a single digit number," Benning said.
Like last season, a number of teams have been testing in preparation for the Mudsummer Classic including Kyle Busch Motorsports, which has won seven of the nine races this season. The most recent series winner, Erik Jones, tested for his first start on dirt at Wythe Raceway along with KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr.
"It will be interesting," Jones said. "I tested one time on dirt and that's the extent of my dirt experience."