Johnny Sauter

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Drivers ready to get dirty in tonight’s Eldora Dirt Derby Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway

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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.”

Johnny Sauter:

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.”

Christopher Bell:

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.”

Chase Briscoe:

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):

TODAY

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)

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Johnny Sauter believes this season can be even better than last year’s championship run

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Johnny Sauter has called the 2016 season the best he’s ever had.

Of course, you’d talk that way if you won your first Camping World Truck Series championship.

On the path to that title, Sauter earned three wins, 12 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.

But Sauter says he can top last season – and he’s on track to do that.

As teams prepare for the next Truck race, July 19 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, Sauter is once again having an outstanding season.

Through the first 10 races of the 23-race schedule, Sauter has one win, seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

He’s already led twice as many laps his season (316) as he led all of last season (130).

“I think there’s no question about our performance,” Sauter said in a teleconference on Tuesday. “It was a bummer the other night at Kentucky.

“We lost a cylinder there with 14, 15 to go. That would have been another top-three finish. And as it was we still finished ninth on seven cylinders.”

Yet, while the motor in his No. 21 GMS Chevrolet Silverado may have lost some power at the end of the Kentucky race, that can’t be said for Sauter’s season.

“I definitely feel like we’re hitting on all eight (cylinders),” Sauter said. “We’re doing everything, you know, depending on who you talk to, pretty smart.

“I definitely think that we need to win some more races, for sure, before things get going. And we’re coming to a lot of great racetracks coming up.

“Yeah, I feel great about where we’re at. And the key deal is I don’t feel any complacency. I feel we’re still digging and trying to make our stuff better.

“I feel like we’re a long shot better than where we were a year ago this time.”

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Johnny Sauter still No. 1 in Truck standings after Kentucky

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Johnny Sauter remains atop the NASCAR Camping World Truck series driver standings after Thursday night’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

Sauter leaves Kentucky with a 28-point lead over second-ranked and Thursday’s race winner, Christopher Bell.

Chase Briscoe is third (74 points behind Sauter), followed by Matt Crafton (-89) and Ben Rhodes (-134).

MORE: Christopher Bell holds off Brandon Jones at Kentucky to earn third Truck win of 2017

MORE: Results from Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway

Click here for the full Truck Series standings after Thursday’s race at Kentucky. 

Christopher Bell holds off Brandon Jones at Kentucky to earn third Truck win of 2017

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Christopher Bell held off Brandon Jones in a strong battle over the last three laps to capture Thursday night’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

It was Bell’s third win this season in the Camping World Truck Series, all coming on 1.5-mile tracks. He led 54 of the 150 scheduled laps.

Justin Haley finished third, followed by Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson. Sixth through 10th were: Kyle Busch, Parker Kligerman, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill.

The start of the race was delayed three hours due to rain, but fans that waited things out were rewarded with an exciting finish. The race ended well past midnight Eastern Time.

MORE: Results from Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway

MORE: Johnny Sauter still No. 1 in Truck standings after Kentucky

Still, it wasn’t easy for Bell, who endured a dropped lug nut that got hung up on a brake rotor on one pit stop, prompting the team to take off the fresh tire it had just put on to retrieve the loose lug. Bell also suffered a single-car spin but recovered from that and roared back to win.

Just a few laps after Ben Rhodes won Stage 1, Rhodes got loose and spun, collecting ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger. Teammate ,Matt Crafton also suffered damage in the incident.

STAGE WINNERS: Ben Rhodes (Stage 1) and Noah Gragson (Stage 2) both earned their first career stage wins.

HOW BELL WON: Bell hovered around the lead for much of the race, leading 54 laps. Brandon Jones made a strong challenge in the closing laps.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Runner-up Brandon Jones, Noah Gragson came back from a spin to finish fifth (and led 32 laps), while Matt Crafton rallied back from contact to finish eighth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Just a few laps after winning Stage 1, Ben Rhodes admitted he got a bit too aggressive when he spun and took out ThorSport teammate Grant Enfinger and caused minor damage to another ThorSport teammate, Matt Crafton.

NOTABLE: Third-place finisher Justin Haley and fourth-place finisher Austin Cindric both earned their Truck Series career-best showings.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I knew if the right circumstances came up, we could do it.” – Christopher Bell.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Truck Series moves to the only dirt race on the schedule, July 19 at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Raceway in Rossburg, Ohio.

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Truck qualifying canceled; Johnny Sauter to start on pole

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Qualifying for tonight’s Camping World Truck Series was canceled by rain Thursday.

Points leader Johnny Sauter will start on the pole. Christopher Bell starts second.

Chase Briscoe would have started third but will go to the rear because he’s in a backup after an accident on Wednesday in practice.

Tonight’s Truck race is scheduled to take the green flag at 7:48 p.m. ET