Third Time’s A Charm: Kyle Larson Wins At Eldora Speedwayby Hunter Thomas July 21, 2016
ROSSBURG, O.H. – Kyle Larson finally won the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway on Wednesday night after years of misfortune.
During the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway in 2013, Larson finished second, losing to Austin Dillon after leading 51 laps. The following year, Kyle Larson used up his truck and pounded the outside wall coming to the get two to go signal. He was running second at the time just behind race winner, Darrell Wallace Jr. At the end of the night, Larson was scored 26th. Larson didn’t compete in the 2015 edition of the race, but this year, he was able to capture the victory by holding off Christopher Bell in the closing laps.
“It means a lot,” Larson said. “Especially losing the way I did the two years I ran. Thanks to everyone on this GMS Racing team and to DC Solar for coming onboard for this. This is very special for them. I knew running a blue 24, I had to run hard here at Eldora. Rico (Abreu) does a really good job in the sprint car with that, so I had to put on a show.”
Although Larson led 48 laps in the 150-lap main event, the road to victory at one point almost seemed insurmountable. While leading the race, Larson blew a left rear tire and spun out exiting Turn 4. The caution immediately came out on lap 53, and NASCAR penalized Larson one lap for intentionally causing a caution. The penalty mired the driver of the No. 24 DC Solar Chevrolet Silverado deep into the pack, but he quickly received the free pass and found his way back into the top-five only about l00 laps into the race.
“We got the flat tire there early,” Larson said. “I knew we’d get the Lucky Dog. I just didn’t know if I could get back to the top-three as quick as I did.”
Larson made his way around Christopher Bell for second place with 49 laps to go, and he took the lead away from Bobby Pierce on lap 119; however, it certainly wasn’t without a fight. As Larson and Pierce entered Turn 3 on lap 127, Pierce made a Hail Mary move to take over the lead. Pierce was out front for a few second until he nailed the outside wall, cutting a right rear tire and bringing out the caution on lap 128. Pierce retired from the event and finished 25th. Pierce made the aggressive move because his truck was stuck in fourth gear, and he knew that he wasn’t going to outrun any of the leaders on a restart. Pierce led a race high of 102 laps.
“And it just worked out where I got by (Christopher) Bell when he got into the wall, and I think Bobby (Pierce) had a gear issue,” Larson said. “He was definitely better than I was for sure. Well, I guess I didn’t really hold him off, he slid in there and hit the wall and got a flat I think. I hate it that we couldn’t race with him, but I was happy when he was out.”
The field went back to green for the final restart of night with just 16 laps to go. Larson was just faster than Bell at the end of the night and was able to capture his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. His first came at Rockingham Speedway back in 2013.
As for Bell, he had a solid runner-up finish and a great points night. With the finish being his seventh top-10 of the season, he jumped up two spots to sixth in the championship standings. This is a notable move because only the top-eight drivers qualify for this year’s Chase, and there have already been five winners this season. Luckily for Bell, he is one of the winners, but there are still five more races to go until the cutoff.
“It’s all about teamwork and leadership,” Bell said. “That’s what we’ve been building off of. We had a good truck; it was just tight in the cushion, tight on the bottom and tight in the middle. We just had to work on it, work on it and work on it, and by the time at the end, it was a little too late. We contended there on that last restart. I just felt like we didn’t have as much speed as the first and second place cars.”
Rounding out the top-five on Wednesday night was Rico Abreu, Jake Griffin an Tyler Reddick. Cole Custer, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Hemric, Austin Wayne Self and Matt Crafton completed the top-10.
Throughout the main event, there were nine cautions for 52 laps. The most notable accident came on lap 39, when there was a nine-truck pile up entering Turn 3. Driver who were involved in the wreck included: Daniel Hemric, pole sitter Caleb Holman, William Byron, John Hunter Nemechek, Spencer Gallagher, Cameron Hayley, Stewart Frieson, Timothy Peters and Ben Kennedy. The crash started when two truck got together entering Turn 3, and everyone else had nowhere to go. The red flag was displayed for 7 minutes and 29 seconds.
William Byron currently leads the championship standings by nine points over Matt Crafton. Daniel Hemric sits third, only 11 points back.
On Saturday, July 30, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will visit Pocono Raceway for the Pocono Mountains 150 that’ll broadcast live on FOX Sports 1 at 1 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images