Last week’s race at Kentucky Speedway put another driver directly into Playoff contention. Ben Rhodes, a Kentucky native, took home the victory after leading 58 laps. Rhodes now sits in sixth place in the points standings and has earned his spot in the postseason.
Rhodes has been to Eldora Speedway twice in his career (2016, 2017). He will make his third start at the track on Wednesday, July 18 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in the Eldora Dirt Derby.
Taking a look at the current points standings, Rhodes joins Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson and Justin Haley as race winners this season.
If the season were to end right now, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Myatt Snider, Cody Coughlin, Dalton Sargeant and Austin Hill are the remaining drivers who would be in the Playoffs based on points. Sargeant and Snider are both contending for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors this season.
Crafton has raced in each edition of the Eldora Dirt Derby since its inception in 2013. He captured his first win at the track last season and has never finished outside of the top 10 at Eldora, proving to be a strong contender at the track.
The veteran driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford is still looking for his first win this season, but bounced back from some tough finishes for a third-place finish at Kentucky Speedway – his best of the season. He’s hoping that momentum will help him go back-to-back on the dirt at Eldora.
Following Eldora, the trucks head to Pocono and then Michigan before wrapping up the regular season at Bristol.
Fresh Faces at Eldora Speedway
Each week we have several drivers that hit a specific track for the first time of their career – this week’s race is no different.
Of the 40 trucks entered to compete, 14 of the drivers have never raced at Eldora Speedway before. They are: Austin Hill, John Provenzano, Todd Gilliland, Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt, Tyler Dippel, Dalton Sargeant, Justin Fontaine, Nick Hoffman, Max McLaughlin, Logan Norman Seavey, Kyle Strickler, Trevor Collins and RJ Otto Jr.
Along with that, there are a lot of drivers making their season debut in the Truck Series on Wednesday night. They are: Hoffman, Ray Ciccarelli, JR Heffner, Chase Briscoe, Jeffrey Abbey, Chris Windom, Justin Shipley and Sheldon Creed.
There are also numerous drivers making their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Eldora. They are: Provenzano, Dippel, McLaughlin, Seavey, Strickler, Collins and Otto Jr.
A lot of the drivers expected to race at Eldora specialize in dirt track racing so Eldora is the perfect spot for them to do it in the truck series, too.
John Provenzano has dominated dirt tracks over the past 40 years, winning titles at LaSalle Speedway, Sycamore Speedway, Santa Fe Speedway, Fairbury American Legion Speedway and Kankakee Speedway. Come this Wednesday, Provenzano will race for Mike Affarano with David McClure serving as the crew chief. The 63-year-old will make his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but is still active on the dirt late-model circuit.
J.R. Heffner is heading back to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora for the third time of his career. Heffner has only made four starts in the series – three times at Eldora and once at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With over 60 victories under his belt, Heffner is a four-time track champion, three-time Mr. Dirt Track USA Champion and a two-time winner of the Hagerstown 300.
Tyler Dippel, a NASCAR Next alum, will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the No. 17 Hue Jackson Foundation / Caruso Logistics / D&A Concrete Toyota Tundra in DGR-Crosley’s second entry. Dippel currently competes full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. Dippel’s career started on dirt when he won his first national championship at the age of 10. He continued on to become the youngest driver to win in a Northeast big-block modified event after grabbing his first big-block modified win at Georgetown Speedway. Dippel then earned the Rookie of the Year honors in the DIRTcar Northeast Series.
Max McLaughlin will make his debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora Speedway for Niece Motorsports. He has been racing dirt modifieds in the Northeast for two years and has picked up wins at Brewertown and Fulton Speedways while finishing ninth in the Super DIRTcar Series.
Logan Seavey will make his NASCAR debut in the Truck Series at Eldora in the No. 51 Mobil 1 Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports under crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. Seavey, who was the 2017 POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series champion, currently leads the midget standings and has never raced at Eldora before. He is hopeful he can get to Victory Lane in a truck since he has found his way there with a midget earlier this year.
Kyle Strickler is set to pilot the No. 63 Chevrolet Silverado for MB Motorsports at Eldora Speedway. Strickler has accumulated over 180 Dirt Modified wins in his career and has multiple victories at Eldora Speedway, specifically. He is also a two-time Supernational Champion and Renegades of Dirt National Champion.
Chris Windom will drive the DGR-Crosley No. 54 truck at Eldora, where he has recorded six Silver Crown and Sprint Car wins. A two-time USAC series champion, he scored 18 USAC Sprint Car Series victories in advance of the 2018 racing season. He competes regularly in the USAC Silver Crown Series and USAC Sprint Cars, where he hoisted championship trophies in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Windom has not yet entered a race in 2018 but we did see him compete in three series races last year – Eldora, Martinsville and Homestead.
So Close, Yet So Far Away
Second can be bittersweet. And it was for Stewart Friesen in 2017.
The proven star on dirt won the pole and led a race-high 93 laps last year in the Eldora Dirt Derby, but fell victim to an opportunistic Matt Crafton in the late stages of the race to finish second on his favorite turf.
At the time, it was Friesen’s first top-10 finish of the season and should have been a shining moment for the driver who finished second in the Super DIRTcar Series points in 2016. But Friesen didn’t go to Eldora to finish second and it stung.
But 2018 has already been a very different season for Friesen, who has posted four top fives and seven top 10s, as well as a pole at Texas. And Eldora just may be the track where he can get in the win column.
This marks Friesen’s third visit to the half-mile dirt track in Ohio. His NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut came at Eldora in 2016 when he managed a 12th-place start but finished 22nd due to a crash. He’s hoping that third time’s the charm and he can score his first NASCAR victory on the surface he grew up racing on.
Home, Sweet Home for ThorSport Racing
Sandusky, Ohio, isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of powerhouse NASCAR teams. But it’s home to the longest-tenured NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team at 23 seasons and counting.
ThorSport Racing will field five entries in Wednesday’s Eldora Dirt Derby with two-time series champ Matt Crafton, Kentucky race winner Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger, Sunoco Rookie Myatt Snider and Chase Briscoe in his return to the series.
Crafton is the defending race winner – but the 2017 Eldora win was also his last win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. So far this year, he’s put together four top-five efforts including a third-place finish last weekend in Kentucky. He hopes to ride that momentum into Eldora, where he’s never finished outside the top 10.
Last week’s victor Ben Rhodes provided both Ford and ThorSport with their first checkered flags of the season. Wednesday marks Rhodes’ third visit to Eldora, where he struggled with 23rd-place finish in his first outing and was relegated to a 30th-place finish last year after a crash.
Briscoe hasn’t been in a truck since the closure of Brad Keselowski Racing following the 2017 season, but he left on a high note, winning the season finale in Miami. He’s a proven dirt racer who knows this week could give him the chance to shine, saying, “Growing up racing dirt, and being a dirt guy, Eldora is our Daytona. Any time you get to run at Eldora, it’s special.“
Enfinger’s lone race at Eldora in the Truck Series was last year when he placed fourth. Snider is making his maiden voyage to the dirt track.
Newman Will Hit the Dirt Track for Jordan Anderson Racing
Jordan Anderson Racing announced last week that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman will pilot the team’s No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado at the half-mile Eldora Speedway.
Anderson, who calls Newman his hero, is excited for Newman to run the race in a truck he owns in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
They made the announcement during the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course test and unveiled the paint scheme that Newman will run in the Dirt Derby. Newman will be sponsored by VRX Simulators.
Anderson said, “For Ryan to be a part of this, it not only brings his wealth of knowledge to the table, but his experience, his credibility and everything he has done in this sport. On top of that, he’s the guy that I looked up to as a kid… It’s cool to have things come full circle for a guy that I looked up to and really tried to emulate my racing career after his where I went to college and did everything.”
This will be Newman’s seventh career Truck Series start and second at Eldora. Newman finished third in the inaugural race in 2013.
Newman said, “It’s going back home. It’s going back dirt racing. I enjoy all of that. I have a lot of friends and family up in that area. But ultimately, it’s just a good experience. It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad NASCAR has put a truck race on the dirt.”
Newman has not finished outside of the top five in a truck race. He also won in his series debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2008.
Moffitt’s Sponsorship Struggle Not A Worry This Week
This season has been one for the books for Brett Moffitt and the No. 16 Hattori Racing team. The team, who has struggled to find sponsorship throughout the weeks, has three wins this season and sits in third place in the points standings.
Even better news came last week when iRacing, the leader in online sim racing, joined forces with the team to sponsor Moffitt’s Toyota Tundra at Eldora Speedway on July 18. As part of iRacing’s 10th anniversary, the partnership with Hattori Racing and Moffitt keeps the team in contention for the 2018 championship and Moffitt couldn’t be more thrilled.
“To have this support from iRacing to step up and partner with this race team is really special. I have some dirt experience running modifieds back in Iowa, but have never run a truck on dirt, so racing at Eldora on iRacing is definitely going to be a benefit. It’s pretty cool to be part of iRacing’s 10-year anniversary. I was just a teenager when iRacing first went live to the public and I joined right away. I raced online a ton for a few years and really enjoyed the racing and community aspects of iRacing. It will be fun to get back in it again with the fans to see how far they have come and to experience running the Toyota Tundra at Eldora before we race there later this month,” Moffitt said in an interview.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Ford Finds Victory Lane: Ben Rhodes’ win at Kentucky Speedway last weekend brought Ford their first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season win of the 2018 season. Chevrolet and Toyota had dominated by winning the first 11 races. They remain in third place in the manufacturer’s standing, trailing first-place Chevrolet by 44 points but can now put a tally mark next to wins. Toyota is second in the standings, 12 points behind Chevrolet.
Eldora Takeover: Justin Shipley’s two NASCAR Camping World Series starts have come at Eldora Speedway – 2016 and 2017. This week’s race will make that three. Jeffrey Abbey is in a similar situation heading into the race. Abbey has only two starts in the series and his first was at Eldora in 2017. He also raced at Martinsville last season. This race will be his third career start and second at Eldora, where he had his best finish of 14th.
Eldora Speedway Quick Facts
As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Rossburg, Ohio for the Eldora Dirt Derby on Wednesday, July 18 (TUNE IN INFO), here are some interesting facts about the speedway.
Track Length: .500-Mile
Track Surface: Clay
Track Configuration: Oval
Banking: Turns – 24 degrees; Straights – 8 degrees
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 17,000+
Qualifying Record: Ken Schrader, Toyota; 91.329 mph (19.709 sec.); July 24, 2013
Race Record: Austin Dillon, Chevrolet; 67.401 mph (01:08:06); July 24, 2013
Race Winners: 5
Pole Winners: 5
Winning Truck Owners: 4
Most Top Fives: 2 – Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick
Most Top 10s: 5 – Matt Crafton
Most Lead Changes: 9 (7/22/15)
Fewest Lead Changes: 3 (7/20/16)
Most Leaders: 5 (7/23/14)
Fewest Leaders: 2 (7/20/16)
Most Cautions: 13 (7/22/15)
Fewest Cautions: 6 (7/24/13)
Most on the Lead Lap: 24 (7/23/14)
Fewest on the Lead Lap: 15, twice (most recently, 7/19/17)
Most Wins By a Manufacturer: 3 (Toyota)
Closest Margin of Victory: .0761 seconds (7/22/15)
Greatest Margin of Victory: 5.489 seconds (7/23/14)