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The 411: Eldora Dirt Derby

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Kyle Busch Motorsports (1); Hattori Racing Enterprises (2); Jordan Anderson (3)

Not the world’s biggest NASCAR fan? Love trucks slinging mud and going door-to-door in the dirt? You just might want to give tonight’s Eldora Dirt Derby a chance. Tonight’s showdown in the midwest will see some of the sport’s biggest names throw down with up-and-coming future stars, and even a handful of dirt racers looking to make a name for themselves. Here’s what you can expect:

What is the Eldora Dirt Derby?

The Eldora Dirt Derby is the lone dirt track race for NASCAR’s national touring series. Held at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, it sees the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series take on 150 laps (75 miles) of mud-slinging, wheel-to-wheel action. 2018 will see the sixth annual edition of the event, which serves as Round 13 of 23 on the NCWTS schedule.

How can I watch it?

The Eldora Dirt Derby will air tonight at 9PM ET/6PM PT on FS1. If you’re able to tune in for qualifying, that’s also on FS1, kicking off at 4:35PM ET/1:35PM PT.

How is it different from any other NASCAR race?

The dirt is the most obvious difference. But the other key differences come from NASCAR’s willingness to adopt a dirt racing-inspired event format, one that’s not used anywhere else. After qualifying, the field is broken up into five heat races to determine the starting lineup for the main event. Those 10-lap races fill the top 25 spots, a 15-lap Last Chance race fills the next two, and NASCAR’s typical provisional rules fill the rest. Only green flag laps count in the heat and Last Chance races.

Which drivers are the favorites?

Matt Crafton won this race last year for ThorSport Racing, and will return to defend his crown. His teammate Ben Rhodes comes into the week having won the series’ most recent race at Kentucky Speedway; Rhodes won one of the five heat races here in 2016. Dirt modified star Stewart Friesen challenged for the win here last year as well, and will continue challenging for his first career NCWTS win after finishing second last week. Other top contenders include points leader Johnny Sauter, current runner-up Noah Gragson, third place Brett Moffitt, and top prospect Todd Gilliland, as well as a host of competitive one-off entries.

Who are some of the one-offs in the field?

The biggest name on the grid is former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman, who will step into the truck typically raced by Jordan Anderson. Fellow NASCAR Cup Series star Ty Dillon will also compete, driving for Young’s Motorsports, while Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe joins ThorSport in a fifth truck. In addition, former Stadium Super Trucks champion and Lucas Oil Off Road standout, and now ARCA points leader, Sheldon Creed will make his third start here, and first with MDM Motorsports.

Who else has won here before?

No driver has ever won the Eldora Dirt Derby twice. Austin Dillon won the inaugural race in 2013, followed by Bubba Wallace in 2014, Christopher Bell in 2015, Kyle Larson in 2016, and Crafton last year. Of the group, only Crafton is entered in tonight’s race. Only Kyle Busch Motorsports, with Wallace and Bell, has taken multiple victories at Eldora to this point.

What’s next for the series after this?

Next weekend, the NCWTS returns to action at Pocono Speedway, following that with events at Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway before determining its eight-driver playoff field. The final seven races of the season will see that whittled down to six, and finally four, before determining a champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

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