No matter the vehicle, dirt racing produces its same, arm-hair-raising result. And Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Dirt Derby encapsulated that precisely.
There were slide jobs and riveting battles, wall-bangers and bottom-riders, constant three-wide racing and even a four-wide battle for the lead with five laps to go. In the end, a door-banging, photo-finish capped it all, with dirt ringer Chase Briscoe edging ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Effinger by 0.038 seconds for the Dirt Derby triumph.
Briscoe and Effinger jockeyed side-by-side for the entire final lap, with Effinger outside and Briscoe inside. As the two chugged off Turn 4, Briscoe slammed Effinger into the outer wall, denying a possible run on the outside and securing his place in Eldora’s rich history.
“I wasn’t going to wear him out. I wasn’t going to wreck him for the win,” Briscoe said in Victory Lane. “We rubbed, and I definitely floored him all the way to the wall — I’m sorry for that. That’s not how I race.”
— NASCAR Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) July 19, 2018
Enfinger said: “I feel like we had the position on him. … He eased me up and I was going for it. He didn’t do anything dirty. It was just the last lap for a really, really big race. Really wish we could’ve got a win. … Man, that close.”
“It means so much to win at Eldora,” Briscoe added. “Growing up being a dirt guy, my grandfather’s won here. … This is our Daytona 500 for dirt guys. This win is for all the dirt guys out there who don’t get a shot. Tonight proves a dirt guy can do it at this level.”
Briscoe led 53 of the 150 total laps — the last 45 to win Stage 2 and the final eight overall. The 23-year-old started Stage 3 13th since 12 drivers stayed out during the optional, three-minute intermission. At that point in the race, with the track slicked off, charging to the front from 13th in just 60 laps seemed like an unreachable order.
“I was worried to death,” Briscoe said. “Track position was so big at the time.”
Logan Seavey, the 2017 POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series champion driving in Kyle Busch’s No. 51, was one of those 12 drivers who stayed out and assumed the lead from the onset of Stage 3. He led the first 53 laps of that final leg and opened up a four-second lead on Stewart Friesen before a caution with 20 to go wiped the comfy advantage clean.
On the ensuing restart, Seavey, Friesen, Enfinger, and Briscoe, who made his way to fourth with 14 to go, joined a four-wide battle for the lead. Two more cautions unfolded from there, and Briscoe powered ahead of Seavey for good on the second-to-last restart.
Seavey wound up eighth on a night he led 53 laps.
Friesen, the heavy favorite to come out on top, led just one lap and had another prime opportunity at his first NASCAR Truck Series win dashed by heartbreak. After getting spun out in Stage 1 that booted him back to 30th, Friesen charged through the pack and placed third — his second straight podium finish at the Dirt Derby.
“We just lacked a little forward drive. We were all balled up on the right front,” Friesen told FOX Sports 1 after the race. “The guys worked hard to salvage something out of it. Obviously not a win. We came here guns a blazing.”
Fast-time award: Ben Rhodes
Heat winners: Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland, Chase Briscoe, Matt Crafton, Stewart Friesen
Consolation winner: John Hunter Nemechek
Failed to qualify: Ray Otto, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Braden Mitchell, Mike Harmon, Trever Collins, Ray Ciccarelli, John Provenzano
Key to victory: A pristine restart with five laps to go powered Chase Briscoe in front of then-leader Logan Seavey, plating the green-white-checkered, photo-finish with Grant Enfinger.
Stage 1 (Lap 1-40): Ben Rhodes led 39 of 40 laps and held off dirt ringer Logan Seavey by 0.222 seconds for his first stage win of 2018.
Rhodes raced to a 2.1-second lead on Todd Gilliland in the first nine laps, before Johnny Sauter bunched the field after a spinout in Turn 2. Stewart Friesen managed to lead Lap 27 but got turned around by Chris Windom, the 2017 USAC National Sprint Car champion, racing for second on the following circuit. Friesen ended the stage 26th. Gilliland, who started on the front row, slipped to 13th.
Chase Briscoe, Windom, Tyler Dippel, Nemechek (26th to sixth), Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Ryan Newman and Austin Self rounded out the top 10.
Stage 2 (Lap 41-90): Chase Briscoe led the final 45 laps to claim Stage 2 by 0.306 seconds over Grant Enfinger.
Briscoe inherited the lead on Lap 46 when Ben Rhodes tagged the wall and cut a left front tire, forcing to duck to pit road. Rhodes finished the stage in 31st, two laps down. After racing in the top 10 for most of the night, Cup Series driver Ryan Newman went four laps down for a cut tire and ended the stage last. Stewart Friesen made his way back into the top 10 on Lap 85 after getting spun around in Stage 1.
Logan Seavey, Austin Self, Chris Windom, Todd Gilliland, Matt Crafton, Myatt Snider, Austin Hill and Friesen complete the top 10.
Stage 3 (Lap 91-150): Twelve cars stayed out during the intermission pit stops, including Logan Seavey, Austin Self, and Stewart Friesen, who started Stage 3 first, second and third, respectively. Stage 2 winner Chase Briscoe restarted 13th.
Seavey built a 3.76-second lead on Friesen and led the first 53 laps of Stage 3, but that advantage wiped away when Austin Self and Tyler Dippel brought out the caution with 20 laps to go. The ensuing restart featured a four-wide battle for the lead and another caution, as Todd Gilliland, who ran fifth at the time, spun around off Turn 4 with 14 to go.
No holds barred late in the going. ⚔ pic.twitter.com/GVwv5IPdyI
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 19, 2018
Then with five to go, Seavey timed the second-to-last restart perfectly and stormed ahead of Seavey, who seemingly spun his tires on the slicked-off surface. From there, Briscoe and Grant Enfinger produced one of the most exciting finishes in Truck Series history.
Instant classic. 📸
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 19, 2018
Who had a good race: Noah Gragson. The 20-year-old with little dirt racing experience wheeled from 27th to sixth in a clean, patient showing. He also gained 10 points on series points leader Johnny Sauter and now sits 32 points out of first.
Who had a bad race: Johnny Sauter. The Truck Series points leader needed a provisional to get into Wednesday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby. He qualified 29th of 39 drivers, finished sixth in his heat, fourth in the consolation race and 16th in the main event.
Up next: Gander Outdoors 150 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, July 28