ROSSBURG, Ohio – Austin Dillon will be returning to defend his title, Norm Benning will try to capture the attention of the racing world one more time and Kyle Larson is returning to the dirt.
These are just some of the highlights from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry list released this week for Eldora Speedway’s 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic. The event scheduled for July 23 remains as NASCAR’s only dirt-track race in any of the sanctioning body’s three national series.
NASCAR’s return to the dirt last year came after a 43 year absence and was a huge hit. The Eldora grandstands overflowed and live television coverage produced near-record ratings.
When the checkered flag flew after the 150-lap chase around Eldora, it was an excited Austin Dillon leading the way. Dillon, now chasing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors, cultivated last year’s Mudsummer Classic win through several years of Eldora track time as he nurtured his racing career. That track time included UMP DIRTcar Modifieds and Late Models filtered in between his NASCAR venture that has included the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and now the Sprint Cup Series.
The grandson of Richard Childress will be joining his brother, Ty Dillon, in his pursuit of a repeat win.
While Austin Dillon and 24 other drivers were locked into the 150-lap Mudsummer Classic last year by virtue of their qualifying laps and heat race finishes, five positions remained open through a 15-lap ‘Last Chance Race’.
It was in this race that the crowd riveted and the social media world lit up. The final laps produced a gritty, fender rubbing, battle between veterans Norm Benning and Clay Greenfield for the fifth and final starting spot in the epic Mudsummer Classic. The under-funded Benning was relentless in his fight, and after trading paint coming off the fourth turn, inched his way into the finale and the spotlight. Pit road erupted in delight of Benning’s tenacity and fellow competitors greeted him with high-fives all the way to his pit stall.
While he relished that moment, Benning is hoping that this year his attention can be centered around an earned spot via qualifying or one of the heat races.
Kyle Larson, who joins Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year chase, came upon the Eldora scene full force in 2011 when he captured all three legs of the USAC portion of the Four Crown Nationals. His well-chronicled dirt track exploits caught the eye of the NASCAR world; leading into his current high-profile Sprint Cup ride. Larson savors every opportunity he has to return to the dirt, and will be aiming to improve one-position from his Mudsummer Classic runner-up finish of 2013.