ROSSBURG, Ohio — Story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Getty Images photo —
The sight of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers slinging dirt at Eldora Speedway is back this week.
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart’s half-mile dirt track plays host to the third-annual Mudsummer Classic Wednesday night for the only stop on dirt in NASCAR’s top-three series.
Even though Stewart himself isn’t having the season he wants in Cup, two-time defending NCWTS Matt Crafton keeps finding a way to win in the Truck Series. Crafton scored the victory the last time out at Kentucky Speedway by holding off the challenges of Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney before Ben Kennedy’s truck went into the Turn 1 catchfence and ending the race six laps short. ThorSport Racing’s best finish in the Mudsummer Classic was a seventh by current Cup rookie Jeb Burton in last year’s event.
Erik Jones won the pole and his heat race in the 2014 Mudsummer Classic, but spun out twice during the race and finished 29th in the 30-truck field. Kyle Busch Motorsports brings a trio of drivers this week including the return of Ohio native Matt Tifft to the No. 51 truck along his renowned dirt-track racer Christopher Bell back in the No. 54 seat for the second straight race.
Like Bell, the driver who made be looking most forward to Wednesday’s race is second-place points man Tyler Reddick, whose background came from dirt. Reddick has two wins on the 2015 season at Daytona and Dover and even though Eldora doesn’t have a D in the track’s first letter, E does come after D in the alphabet. Team owner Brad Keselowski takes his hand at the Rossburg track in the No. 29 Ford F-150 and is one of two Cup drivers entered in the field.
2013 Mudsummer Classic winner Austin Dillon will make his first series start of 2015 for NTS Motorsports in the No. 31 DOW Chevrolet. The elder of the Dillon brothers also made his first 2014 Truck Series start at Eldora before going on to win the next series’ race at Pocono a week and a half later. Both Dillons are entered in the event, as Ty returns to the seat of the No. 33 GMS Racing Chevrolet for the first time since Atlanta.
Ty’s teammate’s for the race, Spencer Gallagher, just won his first-career dirt series race over the weekend and could serve as a darkhorse Wednesday night. Gallagher tied his Truck Series career-best finish with a second at Gateway in June.
With the diversity throughout the field, the dirt-track drivers have also shown up to play. 60-years-young Ken Schrader will once again drive the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Toyota and won the pole for the inaugural Mudsummer Classic. NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Chad Boat takes the helm of the No. 15 Billy Boat Motorsports Chevrolet, while regular driver Mason Mingus returns to the seat next weekend at Pocono. Boat ran this year’s Chili Bowl and finished 21st.
Cody Erickson looks to redeem himself this year after missing out on the feature in 2014’s race for Sean Corr. He will drive a truck for owner Kevin Cywinski and try to make in into the 2015 edition of the Mudsummer Classic.
There could be a feel good story Wednesday night, like the one when Norm Benning grabbed the final spot in 2013’s Last Chance race to make the inaugural Mudsummer Classic. Benning brought the Eldora faithful to their feet in a spirited battle with Clay Greenfield for the 30th-and-final spot in the main evecnt Track owner Tony Stewart even bought him an extra set of tires and teams pitched in to fix the No. 57 truck so the Pittsburgh, Pa. native can try to go the distance in the race.
The qualifying format for Wednesday’s race will start with time trials to set the fields for the five 10-lap heat races. The top-five trucks from each heat transfer to the main event, while there will also be a 15-lap Last Chance Race to decide who gets the final two spots in the field for the feature. 34 trucks are entered for the third-annual Mudsummer Classic and 32 trucks will start the main event.
The green flag drops on the 1-800-Car-Cash Mudsummer Classic just after 9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
T.V. schedule for the 1-800-Car-Cash Mudsummer Classic (all times Eastern)
10:30 a.m. Practice (FOX Sports 1)
11:30 a.m. Final Practice (FS1)
5 p.m. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying (FOX Sports 2)
7 p.m. Qualifying Races (FS2)
8 p.m. Last-Chance Race (FS1)
9 p.m. 1-800-Car-Cash Mudsummer Classic (FS1)
3:30 a.m. 1-800-Car-Cash Mudsummer Classic (re-air) (FS1)