ROSSBURG, Ohio — Recap by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
NASCAR, meet Christopher Bell.
On a night when two dirt-track regulars gave it their all in modified pickup trucks at the Eldora Speedway, the third-annual 1-800-CAR-CASH MudSummer Classic featured a classic duel between Bell and Bobby Pierce in the closing laps.
Though it appeared neither driver had the upper hand, with the two young standouts slinging their machines around the half-mile dirt track looking for a win, it was Bell who held off a late charge from Pierce to take his first career NASCAR national series win in just his third-career NCWTS start.
Bell led a grand total of 106 of the race’s 154 laps, including the final 49 circuits, in a race that was extended from the 150 laps scheduled due to a caution with two laps to go that set up a green-white-checkered sprint to the finish.
The win was Bell’s first-ever win at Eldora in any series, after numerous close calls and podium finishes in sprint car and midget competition at the track owned by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Bell, the 2013 USAC National Midget Champion. “I’ve been coming here quite a few times and if you’d have told me a few years ago that my first win here would come in a truck, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Bell cleared Pierce on a green-white-checkered restart and drove away before the No. 63 trcuk started to reel him in. Though Pierce tried a last-moment slide job in turns three and four on the last lap, Bell was never rattled en route to a 0.762 second victory.
“I knew he was there,” Bell said of Pierce. “That’s pretty awesome [though], for me and Bobby to come here and run 1-2. I’d never heard of him until I was at a sprint car race [at Granite City (Ill.) Speedway] last year and he was running his late model. It’s pretty cool a couple of dirt guys can run 1-2 at a dirt race track.”
Pierce made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut Wednesday nigh at Eldora while taking up the runner-up spot. The dirt late model driver qualified a half-second better than the field and then went on to in his heat race to start first in the main event.
Despite losing the top spot to John Hunter Nemechek on the opening lap, Pierce roared back to take the lead for the first time at lap two and lead 40 laps early on in the race.
Later on, the rear-decklid dangled off of the No. 63 truck after Pierce popped the wall trying to chase Bell down inside of 20 laps to go. Even still, the aerodynamic mess out back didn’t slow him down in his pursuit of a win in his series debut.
While he came up just short, the Oakwood, Ill. driver’s finish is the best-ever result for Mike Mittler’s MB Motorsports team since its inception during the inaugural Truck season back in 1995. The team now has its second-ever top 10 finish in 213 series starts, and the effort tops an eighth-place finish posted by Carl Edwards at Kansas Speedway in 2002.
“[The whole race] was awesome. I had a lot of people before the race telling me I was going to be the Kyle Larson of this year’s race,” Pierce said. “I didn’t want to be the guy in second, but I was trying to get him back on that last run. [Christopher] Bell just drove a great race.”
“It was a lot of fun [to race] out there. I’m out of breath.”
Behind Bell and Pierce, it was a third driver with a myriad of dirt track experience that allowed the “ringers” to sweep the podium, with Tyler Reddick coming home in third and taking a small chunk out of two-time defending series champion Matt Crafton’s points lead.
Reddick led final practice in his No. 19 Ford and the speed stayed through the race, with a late charge up the middle of the race track on the final restart giving the 19-year-old another top-five finish in 2015.
“The second-to-last restart, I knew what Bobby was going to do and I knew what I was going to do,” Reddick said when asked about his chances at the end of the race. “We’ve raced each other a lot over the years in late models. It just didn’t work out. He didn’t get going and I tried to help him but it just wasn’t good for me. I wasn’t able to get where I needed to be to have any speed on the green-white-checkered.”
“Fortunately, everyone got bottled up and I was able to take advantage of it and come out third. Our truck was just too loose. We were too tight last time, but just too loose tonight. Hopefully we can win here soon. I’ve been wanting it bad.”
2014 Eldora pole winner Erik Jones rallied to post a fourth place result, his best showing at the half-mile track in two starts, and rookie Daniel Hemric shocked many with his fifth-place run in his first start ever on a dirt surface.
Inaugural winner Austin Dillon faded to sixth after leading eight laps early and challenging for the win on the final restart, with outside pole-sitter Nemechek, Thorsport Racing teammates Cameron Hayley and Matt Crafton, and Ty Dillon rounding out the top ten.
Sixty-year-old dirt track and NASCAR legend Ken Schrader, who won the inaugural pole at Eldora in 2013, finished just behind the younger Dillon in 11th.
The third ThorSport Racing Toyota had a rough night overall while watching his teammates drive to top 10 finishes. Johnny Sauter smacked the wall and sustained a flat tire at lap 94 just before a caution flag came out. A penalty for fueling outside of the competition caution periods then relegated Sauter into a hole he could never recover from. The veteran finished 22nd, one lap off the leaders.
Overall, yellow fever was apparent throughout the night, with the caution flying a race-record 13 times for 61 laps.
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who was making his dirt track debut, wound up 28th in the running order. Keselowski stayed out at the first competition caution on lap 60 to assume the lead, but was never officially credited with leading a lap before later sustaining heavy damage to his truck in a crash.
Leaving Eldora, Reddick now sits 14 points behind Crafton in the championship chase.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on Saturday, August 1 for the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway. Austin Dillon is the defending winner of the event.
Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman contributed to this report.
RESULTS: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; 1-800-CAR-CASH MudSummer Classic; Eldora Speedway; July 22, 2015
- Christopher Bell
- Bobby Pierce
- Tyler Reddick
- Erik Jones
- Daniel Hemric
- Austin Dillon
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Cameron Hayley
- Matt Crafton
- Ty Dillon
- Ken Schrader
- Ben Kennedy
- Tyler Young
- John Wes Townley
- Ray Black Jr.
- Chris Fontaine
- Spencer Gallagher
- Jody Knowles
- Norm Benning
- Sean Corr
- Matt Tifft
- Johnny Sauter
- Timothy Peters
- Korbin Forrister
- Cody Erickson
- Wendell Chavous
- Jennifer Jo Cobb
- Brad Keselowski
- Cole Custer
- Travis Kvapil
- Chad Boat
- Stewart Hayward