As I sit here watching the MudSummer Classic at Eldora for the 2nd time, I’m thinking back to what I was expecting to see as compared to how the race turned out. As I watched practice on Tuesday night, I laughed more than I ever recall laughing while watching NASCAR. For most of the regular drivers in the Camping World Truck series, this was their first experience racing on dirt. For the fans, this was a new experience as well. No NASCAR division had raced on dirt for the last 43 years. No one knew what to expect or if it would be an experience that would lead to future dirt track racing.
One of the biggest surprises for me had nothing to do with the drivers or the race but the track. I learned so much about the little dirt track called Eldora. I was amazed that this little piece of dirt was so rich in history and held such importance in the world of motorsports. It made me understand why Tony Stewart was so determined to own this track and why he had worked so hard to introduce this place to the NASCAR fans.
As the race started, Ken Schrader sat on the pole. As a veteran who has driven every type of vehicle on every type of track had to be considered one of the favorites. Other drivers who are known for racing on dirt were expected to do well. The one driver who seemed to be a media favorite was Scott Bloomquist. I had not heard of him before but I kept thinking that he looked mad. Unlike the other drivers who had no idea what they were doing there but were obviously having a great time, I never saw Scott Bloomquist smile. I decided immediately that he wasn’t going to do well and I wasn’t going to become a Scott Bloomquist fan (sorry, that is just how I saw it).
From the drop of the green flag, it was pretty clear that a driver is a driver is a driver. Seeing Kyle Larson weave his way from 13th place to the front of the pack was pretty much expected. Ryan Newman and Dave Blaney, both experienced dirt racers, quickly made their way to the front.
I was surprised at the number of green flag laps and how quickly the segments were being run. I had expected to see every truck spin out, probably more than once. I did not see that. These guys are good. They found a way to keep their trucks going straight instead of spinning round and round. How did they catch on so quickly? Again, these guys are just good.
When Austin Dillon took the lead, this was my first real surprise. I never thought of Austin as a dirt racer. Of course, the Dillon brothers have surprised me from the start. Not only are they incredibly talented drivers, they are extremely awesome young men. A couple of times, Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman gave it their best and looked as if they might challenge for the win. Kyle Larson is another young driver who I have written about before. His talent seems to be as much a part of him as his skin. This kid is the real deal.
As the 3rd segment wound down, it was pretty clear that the only way to get the win was going to be to wrestle it away from Austin Dillon. The only big crash took place with 33 laps to go and saw heavy damage to the trucks of Jared Landers, Ty Dillon and Johnny Sauter.
The racing action between Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson continued to the checkered flag. When Austin Dillon crossed the line first, he proved once again that youth and determination can win against age and experience. The event at Eldora proved that NASCAR can run on dirt and the fans will respond. Tony Stewart proved that he made a wise decision in buying Eldora and campaigning to bring a NASCAR race to this little dirt track. Good job everyone. I can’t wait for next summer at Eldora.