Darrell Wallace Jr. claimed his second NASCAR World Camping Truck Series race of the season Wednesday by winning the 1-800 CarCrash Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway.
The driver of the No. 54 Toyotacare Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports led the final 97 laps of the 150-lap race. Wallace held off the relentless attack of Sprint Cup regular Kyle Larson who creamed the wall with two laps remaining.
Wallace Jr. becomes the second winner, after Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon won the inaugural event a year ago. Like last year, a major storyline in the stacked field was the drivers who entered the event to have the opportunity to race in NASCAR’s only sanctioned race on dirt, and the drivers that are contending for a series championship.
The strategies among the teams and the excitement levels seemed to fluctuate, depending on different circumstances. Ty Dillon, who races full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series but contended for a Truck series championship last season, has a different mindset this year compared to a season ago.
“It’s a lot more relaxed this time around,” Dillon said. “We had a close battle around this time last year. It was really starting to heat up and that was really on my mind more than anything, making sure I finish the race instead of worrying about winning the race.
Dillon, who has a dirt-track racing background, returned to Eldora in his No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet looking to put on a show, realizing points are no longer an issue.
“We you have the mindset of just winning, that’s all you think about, it seems to just help your whole night,” Ty Dillon said. “You would like to think that way throughout a whole year but the points deal is kind of a big deal. I know that was on my mind last year and it might have affected a little bit of the way we ran … “
While Dillon admitted he might have been holding back last year because of his championship aspirations, his older brother Austin Dillon doesn’t buy that Ty was holding anything back.
“Yea, I don’t think Ty’s a points racer,” Austin Dillon said in a joking manner. “He gets it on every time I see him on the track. So, he can say what he wants about last year, but he was slide jobbing in the Heat race, I was pretty proud of him. He gets after it.”
Austin, who won the aforementioned race last season at Eldora, as always been a points racers; admittedly to a fault sometimes. However, Austin has been very successful in the Truck and Nationwide Series, winning Rookie of the Year and a championship in both series.
Now a Sprint Cup regular, Austin is biding to become the first driver to win Rookie of the Year honors in all three series. So when he gets the opportunity, he enjoys racing when points are not on the line.
“It is tough, like he (Ty) said, you think about it,” Austin Dillon said. “I probably think about it more than I should sometimes when I’m racing for points but it’s part of it. I came in here with no pressure last year, and it turned out to be a good result. So, Ty has no pressure this year, there are quite a few of us this year that have that same opportunity to just go out there and win.
“It kind of stinks for those guys like Ryan (Blaney) and (Matt) Crafton, this is such a fun event, but they are still thinking about points. I didn’t even think about that coming in today, it just feels like an exhibition. “
Before Wednesday’s only dirt event of the season, Crafton held a slim lead over Blaney. Both drivers, along with the rest of the regular Truck-series competitors, had the most to lose at Eldora.
After hitting the wall in qualifying, Crafton was frustrated but wasn’t about to panic heading into the Heat races.
“We are going into this race like we are going into every race,” Crafton said. “Just go in there, be smart , be there till the end, try not to hit the wall too much. I didn’t really touch hit at all in practice and I clobbered it in qualifying. We just need to keep doing what we are doing and keep it out of the wall and be smart out there, and have some luck on our side.”
Blaney, on the other hand, knew what was at stake before the race began. After posting one of the fastest times in practice, he was confident in his car, but the unknown variable made the driver uncomfortable.
“I’ve really been saying for a week or two, telling everybody, that this is a race where you can gain or lose a lot of points and hopefully we’ll be on the good side of it,” Ryan Blaney said. “There are two wild cards, I would say three in the Truck series, and they are here, Mosport and Talladega. You just don’t know what can happen at those. I’m a lot more comfortable going to the road course and Talladega is it’s own thing, but this is probably the most stressful of all the race tracks we go too.
“You just don’t know what can happen. You can have a bad qualifying run and that will put you back in the heat race. You can’t pass nobody in the Heat race, then you have to start 20th. It’s just very stressful when you don’t know what to expect …“
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.