Ben Rhodes was quickest in time trials for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ sole race on dirt, and it was good enough to earn him the first-place starting spot in the first heat. He took advantage of that position, and will also start first in the feature event at Eldora Speedway.
The top-five finishers in each heat race get locked into the main event. The remaining drivers get put into the last chance qualifier, where the top-two finishers will advance into the race. From there, the remaining starting spots get decided by owner’s points.
The first heat race of the night featured pole winner Rhodes after a surprisingly fast lap in time trials. Rhodes was quick to admit it would be important in the race to keep the truck out of the wall. In two previous starts at Eldora, he has a best finish of 23rd.
Other drivers in Heat No. 1 were ARCA Racing Series points leader Sheldon Creed, Austin Wayne Self, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Shipley, Austin Hill, Braden Mitchell and Ray Ciccarelli.
On the original start, Creed anticipated a quick start and jumped out to a lead, one NASCAR deemed to be illegal. He lucked out, however, when a quick caution came for a spin by Mitchell half a lap later.
Another caution with four laps to go in the 10-lap heat came out when the No. 0 truck of Ciccarelli spun out.
As the race came to an end, Creed made his way back up to Rhodes. The two battled side-by-side but in the end, Rhodes took the win and will start first in the main event. Finishing third was Self followed by Shipley and Hill.
Nemechek, Mitchell and Ciccarelli got pushed to the last chance qualifier.
Starting first in the second heat race is debut driver Logan Seavey. Seavey, a 21-year-old Californian, is a dirt sensation who attracted the eye of Kyle Busch. He started on the front row with teammate Todd Gilliland. Brett Moffitt, Dalton Sargeant, Max McLaughlin, Ty Dillon, R.J. Otto and Tanner Thorson joined the Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates in the heat race.
The second heat was much calmer until a spin by Thorson with three laps to go. An accomplished dirt racer, Thorson looped his Young’s Motorsports truck while running in eighth. He lost a lap before getting back under power.
After dominating much of the heat, Seavey lost the lead to Gilliland once the race got back going. He went on to win the heat with Seavey finishing behind. Moffitt, McLaughlin and Dillon joined them transferring into the Dirt Derby.
Otto, Sargeant and Thorson were forced to the LCQ.
Another debut driver started on the pole for heat three. That would be young Tyler Dippel, driving the No. 17 Toyota for DGR-Crosley. His teammate Chris Windom started second followed by Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe, Kyle Strickler, Norm Benning, Wendell Chavous and Jennifer Jo Cobb.
In the third heat, it was Briscoe who took the win after teammates Windom and Dippel made contact early in the heat. Windom would finish second with Dippel in third.
Norm Benning, who seems to grab a lot of attention in this race each year, finished a miraculous fourth, even passing Gragson for the position late in the heat. Strickler rounded out the top-five finishers.
Gragson, Chavous and Cobb move to the LCQ.
Another pair of teammates held the front row as far as the starting grid goes for heat four. Those two drivers were ThorSport Racing teammates Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton.
Starting third in this heat race was Trevor Collins, a 20-year-old driving the No. 74 for Mike Harmon Racing. His dad, Alan Collins, Jr., is the crew chief on that truck.
Rounding out the starting drivers in this heat were Nick Hoffman, Cody Coughlin, Justin Haley, Johnny Sauter and Mike Harmon.
Crafton took the heat four win away from teammate Enfinger, who finished second. Hoffman, Haley and Coughlin rounded out the top-five.
2016 series champion Sauter will race in the last chance qualifier along with Collins and Harmon.
One of the favorites to win at Eldora is Truck regular Stewart Friesen. He started on pole for this heat alongside Ryan Newman. The other drivers in the heat were Myatt Snider, Justin Fontaine, J.R. Heffner, Jeffrey Abbey and John Provenzano.
Friesen in the No. 52 won the fifth and final heat. Former USAC Silver Crown winner Newman ended up second with Snider in third, Heffner on his tail and Abbey getting the last transfer spot.
Fontaine and Provenzano will have to run the LCQ in order to make the race. Provenzano didn’t finish his heat race after encountering mechanical issues.
Last chance qualifier
Nemechek and Otto owned the front row for the qualifier when it started. The two top finishers along with five drivers by virtue of owner’s points would advance to the Eldora Dirt Derby.
A caution for a spin by Mitchell that collected Ciccarelli sparked an early caution after only three laps.
Another caution for a spin by Ciccarelli slowed the race while Gragson and Nemechek raced for the lead with Otto, who needed to be in the top-two in order advance, ran third.
On the restart, Otto lost the third position to Thorson and raced him hard trying to get in position to race for the transfer spot. He banged his truck against the wall several times, working to get around the No. 20 and catch the leaders before spinning with three laps to go in the 15-lap heat. The damage to his truck was enough to end Otto’s night.
Nemechek went on to win the LCQ followed by Gragson, Thorson, Sauter, Fontaine, Chavous and Sargeant. They each make the race on points.
Mitchell, Cobb, Collins, Otto, Ciccarelli, Harmon and Provenzano ended their nights early.
The green flag for the feature is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. The race can be seen on Fox Sports 1 and heard on radio at the Motor Racing Network (MRN).