Eldora Dirt Derby: Weekend Preview

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Chris Seelman (1); Derik Hamilton/AP (2)

The most unique event staged by any of NASCAR’s three national touring series, the Eldora Dirt Derby sees the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series head to Eldora Speedway for their only dirt race of the season. Immensely popular with fans since its establishment in 2013, the race returns once again this Thursday for its seventh edition.

Like many dirt short track races at a local level, Eldora features a series of heat races and a last chance qualifier to set its grid before running a 150-lap feature. Past race winners include current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, and Kyle Larson, while Chase Briscoe gave ThorSport Racing its second straight Eldora victory last year by beating teammate Grant Enfinger in a door-slamming battle to the finish line.

Aside from top full-time drivers like Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, and Ben Rhodes at ThorSport, Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton at Kyle Busch Motorsports, and Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed at GMS Racing, Eldora traditionally attracts a number of interesting one-offs. Dirt late model regulars Kyle Strickler (DGR-Crosley Racing) and Colt Gilliam (NEMCO Motorsports) are among those who will join the field, while ARCA Menards Series regular Carson Hocevar will step in for Jordan Anderson.

Last weekend’s event from Pocono Raceway further established Niece Motorsports’ Ross Chastain as the driver to beat in Truck Series action. Despite only declaring for points in the series in June, Chastain crossed the finish line first in three of the last five races (although one win was taken away due to a height violation) and currently looks poised to make a strong playoff run. Meanwhile, Enfinger currently leads the series points despite searching for his first win of the season, and will earn an automatic playoff berth and 15 bonus points if he holds onto his 34-point advantage over defending champion Moffitt.

Pocono had the opposite effect for Halmar Friesen Racing’s Stewart Friesen, who crashed on the first lap; still seeking his first career victory, the longtime dirt modified standout will be looking to rebound at Eldora. With race winners Moffitt, Chastain, Sauter, Austin Hill, and Tyler Ankrum locked into five of the eight spots, and drivers like Crafton and Burton still winless, a victory is about the only sure bet to give anybody a shot at scoring this year’s championship.

The Eldora Dirt Derby will air on Thursday night at 9PM ET on FS1. Following Eldora, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series completes its regular season on August 10 at Michigan International Speedway, before kicking off the playoffs five days later at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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