Austin Dillon wins NASCAR Trucks’ inaugural Mudsummer Classic

1 Comment

Austin Dillon took home the inaugural running of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ CarCash Mudsummer Classic presented by CNBC Prime’s the Profit on the dirt at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

He wasn’t the only winner, because race fans and dirt tracks nationwide also figure to be big winners after a successful debut night for the trucks at Tony Stewart’s track.

A highly entertaining 150-lap race, broken up into three segments of 60, 50 and 40 laps apiece, saw Dillon edge ahead of Kyle Larson on Lap 89, one lap before a caution for debris. Indeed debris cautions seemed the only thing to break up the flow of the race, as they occurred right as the leaders were lapping traffic.

Dillon, who led a race-high 63 laps, was authoritative on restarts on the high line, even if his No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet perhaps didn’t quite have the overall speed of Larson’s No. 30 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet on the night. Two late-race restarts saw Larson need to pass TSM teammate Ryan Newman, who finished third, before having a chance to catch Dillon.

“This is real racing, that’s all I gotta say,” Dillon told SPEED Channel in victory lane. “We started 19th and had to come from a long way. I could turn a little earlier in the middle and had drive.”

Larson was appropriately dejected given his strong pace and performance throughout the night, save for a bit of contact that cost him some bodywork.

“We had the best truck for sure,” he said. “The Clorox Chevy was by far the best. Got overly excited in lapped traffic and got in the back, Austin scooted by. I didn’t hit the timing loops when I needed to.

“(On restarts), the bottom was the worst place to be. I kept screwing up my shifts. They got better restarts. I knew we had the best truck. Came up a little bit short. Austin ran a great race, and didn’t make any mistakes.”

Newman was third ahead of Joey Coulter and Brendan Gaughan.

The results, ultimately, were secondary to the show put on for NASCAR’s first dirt race in more than 40 years. Social media was abuzz from drivers and fans from all walks of motorsport during the race to add a collective commentary to the broadcast. And the track, of course, was packed – a sellout crowd was announced well in advance of the race.

It was a win for NASCAR, for dirt tracks, and for race fans. More on the race will come tomorrow.

Spencer Pigot ready for full-season IndyCar effort with ECR

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

After spending the last two years in a part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing, contesting the road and street course races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot now gets a long-awaited chance at a full-season effort in 2018.

Moving over to the No. 21 entry, which has featured ECR’s full-season driver since 2016, Pigot has seen slight differences in his off-season prep ahead of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We were one of the teams that got to a handful of days testing the aero kit, so I obviously did all the running on the road courses, but I was able to do a few laps on the ovals when Ed was testing. So, that wouldn’t have happened (if I was part-time still),” he told NBC Sports.

However, outside of that increase in testing and a little learning some new tracks – he has not raced at ISM Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, or Iowa Speedway in an IndyCar – the changes to Pigot’s off-season program have not been dramatic.

“There’s definitely some things I’ll need to learn, but as far as off-season prep: nothing too dramatic, nothing too different.”

Pigot’s first full-season campaign saw its first official outing of the 2018 season last weekend during the open test at ISM Raceway. While he and the ECR team struggled to find speed much of the weekend – they languished outside of the top ten in the results of the first three sessions – things took a turn for the better during the final session of the weekend on Saturday night, when Pigot ended up ninth on the speed charts.

He ended up 14th in the combined results for the weekend, noting that he and the team still want to find more outright speed.

“I thought throughout the test that our average long run pace was okay, but we were still missing the outright pace to be where we need to be come qualifying time,” he revealed. “I think that we definitely made a step forward Saturday night and definitely have a much better idea of a direction we can head and go with when we go back.”

In terms of long-run practice, Pigot noted that tire degradation became much more prevalent, which made running with others cars around you somewhat of a challenge. Though, he emphasized that tire degradation could be beneficial for racing.

“Talking to some of the other guys, it seems a little bit harder to run behind people as the tires go off because the tires are degrading pretty quick with the lack of downforce as well,” he explained. “So, it’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be sliding around a little bit more than what guys have experienced in the past. But, I think everyone’s under the same kind of idea that it’s going to be better racing, and especially at (ISM Raceway) it should be exciting.”

Pigot did get some practice at overtaking at ISM and got a feel for what he may be able to expect when IndyCar returns in April for the Phoenix Grand Prix, and while he acknowledged it was difficult to judge during testing, he did feel like he could run around other cars without much of an issue.

“It’s not like a race when everyone comes in the pits at the same time and you’re all on similar tires, so it’s kind of hard to know exactly. But, I thought we were pretty good,” he detailed. “I thought I was able to run pretty close to guys in front of me and was able to make a few passes when other guys made mistakes or might have gone a little high.”

The test also served as Pigot’s first IndyCar venture on a short oval – he last ran on a short oval in 2015 during his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship season.

“The corners definitely come up quick. There’s not much time to really relax or think about too much,” Pigot quipped when describing his first time on a short oval.

He continued, “You’ve got to concentrate pretty hard on being precise because the line there is very narrow so you have to make sure that you’re where the grip is at all points throughout the corner. And then, when everyone’s out there and you run in traffic, it’s just like you’re constantly in a corner, so it’s a little more difficult to get big runs and drafts off people. But I think it’ll definitely play into the hands of guys that have their cars set up well and can be easier on the tires.”

And in becoming the team’s full-time driver, Pigot is seeing a slight increase in his leadership role within the team, especially as it relates to testing and development, with Pigot doing the lion’s share of testing during the winter on road courses.

But, he also emphasized the oval prowess of teammate, and team owner, Ed Carpenter as something he will lean on when he ventures out on other ovals for the first time this year.

“Especially as we’re trying to learn this new aero kit, I was the one that pretty much did all the testing on the road and street courses. It was kind of me and the engineers trying to develop the car and work towards the setup that’s going to work for us. So, there’s definitely a little more responsibility in that. But, then on the ovals, obviously Ed’s there and he’s a great teammate to have and to learn from and bounce ideas off of. But, yeah, it’s definitely a more involved role within the team,” Pigot explained.

Pigot and ECR will test two more times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway, in the month of February prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

Follow@KyleMLavigne