ROSSBURG, Ohio – Fast qualifier Ben Rhodes led the five qualifying heat race winners at Eldora Speedway and will start on the pole for Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby as a result.
Rhodes elected the outside for the first 10-lap heat, but lost command when Sheldon Creed jumped the start, dropping Rhodes back to fourth before a spin by Braden Mitchell.
That sent Creed to the tail and put Austin Self out in front for the restart, but Rhodes was able to remain patient and worked back past Self on lap four before pulling away to the heat victory.
Despite the heat race win and pole start he earned for his efforts, Rhodes’ biggest worry was his water temperatures due to the mud on the front of his No. 41 Carolina Nut Co. Ford F-150.
Creed rallied back to finish second, with Self and Justin Shipley following close behind.
The battle for the final transfer spot into the feature was fiercest in the first heat, and got physical when Braden Mitchell and John Hunter Nemechek made contact twice in the final two laps trying to get in the show.
Nemechek dove under Mitchell and forced him out of the groove in turn four coming to the checkered flag, but that pushed both of them up the track and allowed Austin Hill to steal the final transfer spot in fifth.
Heat two was a battle between Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Logan Seavey and Todd Gilliland. Seavey led the first seven laps from the pole, but a restart with three laps to go saw Gilliland fire off the top side of the track and scoot past Seavey to secure the win.
Gilliland will join Ben Rhodes on the front row for Wednesday night’s 150-lap feature.
Seavey hung on to second ahead of Brett Moffitt, Max McLaughlin and Ty Dillon.
A caution-free third heat saw Chase Briscoe go three-wide on the outside to take the lead from top starter Tyler Dippel, with Briscoe running off to win the 10-lap sprint by 1.314 seconds.
Chris Windom and Dippel finished second and third, respectively, but the stories of the heat were Norm Benning and Kyle Strickler, who both put their underfunded teams directly into the main event by finishing in the top five.
Matt Crafton dominated the fourth heat race, leading the non-stop sprint all the way and crossing the line .619 of a second in front of his ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger.
Nick Hoffman, Justin Haley and Cody Coughlin also transferred to the main out of heat four.
Stewart Friesen replicated Crafton’s feat by going wire-to-wire in the fifth and final heat, which ran non-stop but saw Friesen hounded by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Newman the whole way.
Newman crossed the line second, followed by Myatt Snider, JR Heffner and Jeffrey Abbey.
Notable names who failed to transfer out of their heat races and were relegated to the last chance qualifier included John Hunter Nemechek, Dalton Sargeant, Tanner Thorson, Noah Gragson and championship leader Johnny Sauter.