by Ryan Isley
Not only is Ohio an important battleground state in the presidential election, but the Buckeye state has now become one of the most important stops on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule.
For the third straight season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series headed to a dirt track in western Ohio this past Wednesday. And for the third straight year, the trucks put on a memorable show at Eldora Speedway. Christopher Bell won his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, joining Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace as winners of the 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic.
In 2014, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson put on what might have been the best show of the entire season, regardless of series. The two fought until Larson just couldn’t steer the truck anymore after hitting the wall on what he estimated to be at least 70 occasions.
The 2015 edition of the 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic just solidified that the race has become the most fun race on the Camping World Truck Series circuit. While Sprint Cup Series regulars like Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon participated in the event, the real story became the actual race itself. Bell fought off the likes of Austin and Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton, Tyler Reddick and especially Bobby Pierce.
The 20-year-old Bell (making his third career Camping World Truck Series start) and the 18-year-old Pierce (making his first career Camping World Truck Series start) put on a show that would rival almost any other we have seen this season. Pierce raced so hard that he ended up knocking the deck lid loose on the back of the truck but he still kept fighting on. The two of them used the slide move (or at least attempted to) back and forth until the checkered flag finally flew.
Making it even more fun was that the race (scheduled for 150 laps) went under a caution on lap 140, setting up a restart with just five laps to go. And then the race went yellow once again with two laps to go, setting up a green-white-checkered finish for the second time in three years. After getting off to a rough restart, Pierce caught up to Bell on the final lap, but like Larson last year, he just didn’t have enough left.
Bell and Pierce showed that you don’t have to have two popular drivers like Wallace and Larson for the race to be fun and for people to take notice. In fact, it might have been more fun to watch these two race each other and make a name for themselves.
The short track dirt race has become the perfect storm for NASCAR and for the Camping World Truck Series. By sending the Camping World Truck Series to Eldora for a Wednesday night race in the middle of July, NASCAR has made the series relevant at a time when most people wouldn’t think about watching a truck race. After all, when the Camping World Truck Series races on FoxSports1 and isn’t always at the same track as the Sprint Cup Series or Xfinity Series, it is sometimes easy to forget the race is even on.
The only times during the season that a lot of people seem to care about the truck series (or at least talk about the series) before adding Eldora in the middle of the season was at Daytona for the season opener and at Homestead for the final race of the season. If the series championship was all but decided before heading to Homestead, the series didn’t get much attention there either, as the Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series also crown their champions that week in Homestead.
While the series will again race on a Wednesday night at Bristol, the race at Eldora seems to be more popular because of its uniqueness. It is the only race in any of NASCAR’s three top series that is run on a dirt track. Watching the drivers maneuver around on dirt once a season just seems to catch the eye and appeal of fans, myself included. There was no way I was missing this race, as it has become as much of a must-see race for me as the Daytona 500.
NASCAR (and Eldora track owner Tony Stewart) took a chance by placing this race in the middle of the season and also making it a race that counts for points in the Camping World Truck Series. That chance has turned out to be one of the best things the sport has done with the schedule in years.
Unlike the presidential election, the outcome Wednesday night in Ohio might not shape the Camping World Truck Series championship. But just like the election, what happened in Ohio will be the most remembered.