ROSSBURG, Ohio – Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby may not have ended how 21-year-old Logan Seavey would have hoped, but Toyota Racing Development’s newest standout was still able to walk away with his head held high.
Seavey was 21 laps away from what would have been a career-making victory at Eldora Speedway, having stayed out to take the lead at the start of the final stage and driving away from the field with ease over the course of the first two-thirds of the 60-lap stint, despite having 50-lap older tires.
He opened up a lead of more than four seconds with 40 to go and it appeared that Kyle Busch Motorsports was set to earn their third win in six Eldora appearances, as well as propel their next potential superstar into the national spotlight.
However, their strategy ran into a roadblock when Tyler Dippel and Austin Wayne Self tangled and stalled on the racing surface, illuminating the caution lights and bringing a host of challengers up to the back bumper of Seavey’s No. 51 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra, including Stewart Friesen, Grant Enfinger and his sprint car team owner, Chase Briscoe.
Though Seavey nailed the first in a series of late-race restarts with 14 laps left, pulling away off the top side of the race track as the battle for the lead expanded to four-wide underneath him in turn one, another caution for the spinning trucks of Todd Gilliland and Myatt Snider forced him to repeat that procedure – this time with Briscoe to his left flank.
The second time around, Seavey wasn’t as fortunate. When the green flag waved with five laps left, Briscoe timed the restart perfectly, sliding his young protégé for the lead in turn one and never looking back as Seavey’s tires finally began to fade.
One more caution flag and subsequent restart dropped Seavey back to eighth at the checkered flag, with the late-race chaos foiling the Sutter, Calif., native’s hopes of a victory in his NASCAR debut.
After the race, Seavey – who led 53 laps, second only to Briscoe’s 54 – admitted he wasn’t sure what else he could have tried to stay ahead once the cautions started flying in the closing stages.
“I’m not sure there was much more I could’ve done there,” said Seavey. “Right at the beginning of that second stage, you could kind of feel the track was getting a little abrasive and maybe taking a little rubber off the tires. My truck gained a lot of grip there in the second stage, and I just slowed down because I knew everybody was going to take tires and I had already taken mine.
“I assumed I had to try to take as much as I could, but at the end of the day, you know we had 50 more laps … and I think just overheating the tires got us eaten up there those last couple restarts.”
Seavey added that despite simulation practice before he came to Eldora, he couldn’t truly prepare for how he’d react on a late-race restart until he was put in that position in the race.
“In conditions like this, it’s just so tough. You try to prepare as much as you can, but you can’t prepare for everything until you have that real-world experience,” noted Seavey. “Chase (Briscoe) kind of got rolling a little bit before I did … and I just picked up the throttle too hard once he was ahead of me and then it just killed me. I got tight through (turns) one and two and I just didn’t make good laps after that.”