ROSSBURG — Darrell Wallace Jr.’s inexperience racing on dirt didn’t hinder him Wednesday night as he won the second annual Mudsummer Classic NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.
Wallace said he was still trying to figure out what he was doing driving on Eldora’s clay surface in the final laps Wednesday and credited his strong crew and truck for helping to guide him to victory.
“This is awesome,” the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver said. “I’m still trying to figure out how this happened. All day I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Wallace started sixth in Wednesday’s race — the only race NASCAR runs on dirt in any of its top three series — and led 97 of the 150 laps.
“I didn’t expect to win this one,” said Wallace, who picked up his second win of the truck season and moved up to sixth in the season standings. “I expected Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon — one of the dirt guys — to walk away with it.”
Larson, a veteran of the dirt, was one of the highlights of the night as he raced hard and repeatedly hit the wall. His aggressive style eventually caught up to him as an accident took out his truck on lap 148, and he finished 26th.
“Kyle had one of those gladiator runs,” Eldora Speedway owner Tony Stewart said. “He did not leave anything on the table.”
Larson led five laps Wednesday night with Wallace taking the lead from him on the final restart. Pole-sitter Erik Jones led 24 laps and finished 29th, Ron Hornaday Jr. led 17 laps and finished second, and Jeb Burton led seven laps and finished seventh.
After Wallace and Hornaday, Ryan Blaney, Ken Schrader and Ty Dillon rounded out the top five.
“If didn’t like that race, you don’t know what racing is all about,” Stewart said. “Because when you have a half mile dirt track and you’ve got trucks four-wide, legitimately four-wide and three-wide for a bunch of the race, that is … we don’t even have that at any of our big races, that kind of four-wide and three-wide action. As good as it was last year, this definitely topped it.”
This year’s Mudsummer Classic was just NASCAR’s second dirt race — along with last year’s installment — in more than 40 years.
Jerry Baxter, the crew chief for Wallace, said they were like many other teams in trying to figure out the intricacies of the track leading up to the start of Wednesday’s nationally televised race.
“Before the race started, probably right toward the end of practice, one of the other teams came up that was a guy who’s ran a lot of dirt, started asking me a few questions, you know, what are you doing about this, what are you doing with that, your truck looks good, he looks really good, on and on … and I told him, I said, ‘you know you guys run on the dirt all the time. I’m not so sure my kid’s even made a mud pie before,’” Baxter said.
Even though there were many dirt novices, Stewart was impressed by how quickly drivers figured out complex dirt racing moves.
“The four times that I saw trucks four-wide, I’m waiting for the next thing in my right ear, which was NASCAR, to hear them say, ‘put it out’ and wait for them to throw the caution and never did it happen,” the three-time Sprint Cup series champion said. “Guys that aren’t used to doing this learned how to throw slide jobs and learned how to do cross-over moves, stuff that it takes guys a long time to learn, and it shows why these guys got to where they are in NASCAR because how quick they adapt, how quick they learn.”
Following the race, Stewart and Eldora Speedway General Manager Roger Slack relished in accomplishing another successful NASCAR race in Rossburg.
“It was just a whale of a show,” Slack said. “It was fun, and you kept wondering how it was going to keep getting better, and it just kept on doing it. My dad’s already told me, ‘you’re going to have to work hard to beat that crowd and that show.’”
Stewart, who made his first trip to Eldora this year for the race, said he was nervous leading up the race. He wasn’t sure they could top last year’s Mudsummer Classic but left confident that they had pulled it off.
“Last year far exceeded my expectations, and I left here going, now what do we do? What do we do next year? How are we going to beat that? And in my mind, we far beat last year by a mile, knocked out of the park,” Stewart said. “Now I’m going to leave here tonight going, if we get a race here next year, now what are we going to do? So for another year I’m going to worry about it.”