Whether they do well, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers are almost universal in their thoughts:
They love to play in the dirt of Eldora Speedway.
It’s a race unlike any other, on a track that’s also unlike any other in the 23-race Truck Series schedule.
This year’s Eldora Dirt Derby is the fifth at Eldora. Past winners have been Austin Dillon (2013), Darrell Wallace Jr. (2014), Christopher Bell (2015) and Kyle Larson (2016).
Several drivers recently spoke about what the race – and track – means to them. Here’s what they had to say:
John Hunter Nemechek:
What kind of track is Eldora to you?
“Eldora is kind of an oddball compared to most racetracks we go to, but we’ve had speed there in the past couple of years. So we’re looking to go back with somewhat of the same setup.
“We just have to read the track when we get there, seeing what the track is wanting truck-wise and make sure we stay out of trouble. As long as we run a smart race and we’re able to finish all the laps, we’ll be one of the contenders at the end.”
Should the Trucks add a second race on dirt?
“I definitely think other series should try racing in the dirt just to get a feel of … what we’re doing, how we’re racing. It puts on one of the best shows each year.”
What’s the best way to get around Eldora?
“I mean, you see guys sliding around three-, four-wide, as long as they can manage to keep their trucks in one piece and not take out the whole field, I definitely think that going to Eldora, it’s really hard to prepare. And for a truck race there, just because the trucks are so much different than any dirt car, but I definitely think the dirt racers have a little bit of an advantage, just due to racing on dirt, knowing what the track conditions are, what the dirt looks like and what they need for setup-wise.
“And for asphalt racers, we don’t really know what we need. Luckily we have a couple guys on our team that have raced dirt in the past. They’re definitely going to be a huge help.”
Do you like racing at Eldora and on dirt?
“Eldora is a little bit different situation, especially for a guy like me that’s raced asphalt his whole life. I’ve been to a couple of dirt races throughout my lifetime, I guess. But I’ve always been an asphalt guy.
“So I have fun at Eldora. I think it’s a fun place. Obviously a good atmosphere. A lot of great race fans there. But for me it’s just a place where I just haven’t figured it out quite yet. I’ve had some decent runs there but for some reason got tore up towards the middle stages of the race.”
What is your mindset going there?
“I guess my mindset going there is just to have fun, first and foremost. But I think if we do everything right and if we can stay out of trouble, hopefully we’ll be in contention at the end of that thing.
“It’s sort of a survival state. But it’s also a place where if you have a win early in the season and you had some good runs going, it’s a place you can kind of just go and enjoy. And believe me, I’m a competitive guy, I’m a racer, and I want to go there and I want to run well. I just don’t exactly know how yet.”
Since you’re an asphalt guy, what’s your dirt gameplan?
“It’s going to put a bigger emphasis on trying to be a little bit more aggressive. I feel like I say this every week that I’m aggressive no matter what the situation is.
“But you know you might not be as apt to let a guy squeeze into a spot that you maybe normally would. So Eldora is going to be an aggressive race, there’s no doubt about it.”
How much do you like racing at Eldora?
“Eldora is my favorite racetrack in the whole world. Grew up running a lot of laps there. I think over my dirt career here, I’ve run more laps at Eldora than I have anywhere in the world.
“To go back to Eldora riding the momentum from our Kentucky win in the Truck Series is going to be exciting. I think I’ve got as good a shot as anybody to win the race and it’s one of my favorite races of the year, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
You have three wins, but you can also get closer to Johnny Sauter in the standings with a good run at Eldora.
“I feel like this is a very good place for me to catch up on Johnny because Johnny is not a dirt guy and I am. So hopefully we can close the gap a little bit and then add to our championship standings as well.”
This will be your first Truck race at Eldora. You’ve done a great deal of dirt track racing in sprint cars. What are your thoughts coming into Eldora?
“This is the one track I’ve been looking forward to more than any. It’s going to be nice to finally get to Eldora, I’ve been going there ever since I was little. Never got to actually race there.
“Eldora for a dirt guy is Daytona and Indianapolis. Definitely going to be an honor to run there finally.”
Talk more about your dirt background
“My whole dirt background has been 410 non-winged sprint cars and a couple midget races here and there. But just having dirt experience in anything is certainly going to help, I think, just because you know what the track is doing, you can tell just by reading it and you just know that feel that you need on dirt as far as side bite and forward bite goes.
“Just having a sprint car background, obviously the truck’s going to be a lot slower than the sprint car and that always helps when you feel like you’re in slowing motion. It’s going to be a great race.”
What drivers are you focusing on?
“Obviously, (Christopher) Bell is going to be one to beat. Rico (Abreu) going to be good. Bobby Pierce and guys like Chris Wyndham, who is a really good USAC sprint car driver, I think there’s going to be a couple guys that surprise you.”
Would you like to see a second Truck race on dirt?
“I’d be all for it. I think obviously for me and Christopher both, I think we don’t have near as much pavement experience as most of the guys. It’s nice to go to a racetrack where we have an advantage.
“If we could do (a second dirt race) in the playoffs, I certainly think it would be awesome. But there’s a lot of tracks I think that could host it. Obviously Knoxville (Iowa) would be one, I think, just from a seating standpoint and the track size standpoint would be good.
“And I think you could even go all the way to Charlotte Motor Speedway with it being out there real close.”
Eldora Dirt Derby schedule (all times ET):
1 p.m. — Garage opens
4:30 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting
5:15 p.m. — Qualifying, single vehicle/two laps (Fox Sports 1)
7:30 p.m. — First qualifying race, 10 laps (Fox Sports 2, Motor Racing Network)
7:39 p.m. — Second qualifying race, 10 laps (FS2, MRN)
7:48 p.m. — Third qualifying race, 10 laps (FS2, MRN)
7:57 p.m. — Fourth qualifying race, 10 laps (FS2, MRN)
8:06 p.m. — Fifth qualifying race, 10 laps (FS2, MRN)
8:45 p.m. — Last Chance qualifying race, 15 laps (FS2, MRN)
9:10 p.m. — Driver introductions
9:30 p.m. — Eldora Dirt Derby 150 — three segments of 40, 50 and 60 laps for a total of 150 laps/75 miles (Fox Business, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)