Mudsummer Classic Preview: Stage Set for Dillon v Larson II?

by July 23, 2014

Photo by Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images

NEW WESTON, Ohio. — If this year’s running of the Mudsummer Classic is able to replicate just half of the action seen in last year’s inaugural running of the only NASCAR National Series event on a non-asphalt or concrete surface, it would still go down in the record books as being another fantastic event in the annals of the sport.

As was the case last year, the unconventionality of a dirt course on NASCAR’s national stage has drawn the curiosity of several Sprint Cup Series names. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing) and Kyle Larson (Turner Scott Motorsports) will make the trip to the clay half-mile oval known as Eldora Speedway as well as fellow Sprint Cup Series rookie Michael Annett (NTS Motorsports.) Both Dillon and Larson raced in the inaugural running of the Classic and were the respective first and second-place finishers of the event.

Dillon and younger brother, Ty (Richard Childress Racing), will both attempt to race in the Mudsummer Classic – making the brothers the first two entries for Richard Childress Racing in the Camping World Truck Series this year. Austin was the dominant driver in last year’s event, leading the most laps of the 153-lap race (extended by three laps due to a green-white-checkered) with 64 and crossing the finish line 1.197 seconds ahead of Larson. Ty will be looking for redemption at the half-mile track after finishing 16th last year. The younger Dillon brother would finish on the lead lap of the race but would be forced to play catch-up at the end after being involved in a Lap 116 accident.

Austin’s greatest threat to his chances of repeating as the champion of the Classic will once again be Larson. Larson has had a strong history at Eldora outside of the Camping World Truck Series – winning the Four-Crown Nationals in 2011, winning in three different kinds of open-wheel cars in one night. The driver of the No. 32 Glad Chevrolet was able to turn in a strong performance last year, leading 51 laps – a third of the race.

Ken Schrader (Haas Racing Development) is making his return to the Camping World Truck Series for tonight’s event. Schrader was the first driver to lead laps under the green flag last year when he ran for his own team – leading the first 15 laps of the race. Schrader is back this year to improve on his 14th-place finish from last year’s inaugural event, and this time he finds himself in a fast truck that has Haas Racing Development listed as the owner. HRD have been strong lately in the Truck Series, picking up two straight top-eight finishes with Cole Custer, and will be looking to carry that success over to the clay of Eldora.

One of the Camping World Truck Series’ regulars could very well play spoiler on Wednesday night. If we look at the top-10 of last year’s race – Joey Coulter (GMS Racing), Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing), Darrell Wallace Jr. (Kyle Busch Motorsports), and Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) all were able to drive their way into the top-10 by the end of the night. Peters would even get out the lead from laps 16-to-38 – a total of 23 laps. Tonight, those four drivers along with names such as Ryan Blaney (Brad Keselowski Racing) (whose father, Dave, finished ninth in last year’s race), Ron Hornaday Jr. (Turner Scott Motorsports), and Johnny Sauter (ThorSport Racing) could make for a nice surprise and spoil the party for the ‘dirt ringers.’

Last year’s race didn’t provide for many lead changes as the top-line of the race track proved to be the best line in order to play defense as you could carry more momentum around the top. This year, drivers may be willing to experiment with their line in the early goings of the race to see what could provide the greatest advantage at the end of the night.

As has been the case at several races in all three national series this year, a bit of rain is in the forecast for the race – albeit, not enough to be too worried about. Should the current 30-percent chance of rain increase throughout the night, expect the intensity to be ramped up to levels even higher than what you’d see normally tonight.