Bubba Wallace dominates to win MudSummer Classic at Eldora (updated)

3 Comments

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson put on a spectacular battle in the final 40-lap segment of Wednesday’s second MudSummer Classic at Eldora Speedway, but it was Wallace holding on for the win.

Wallace took the checkered flag by nearly an entire straightaway after Larson hit the wall several times in the race and finally broke on Lap 147, three laps from the finish and ending any last chance of a rally.

“I didn’t think (he’d ever win a race on dirt in his career),” Wallace told Fox Sports 1 in victory lane. “God, that’s so cool, on dirt and at Eldora. … Really? Eldora? It’s awesome here. The cool thing is I came into this kind of skeptical, that we’d finish top-5, maybe top-7.

“This team, they never give up. … I said after Iowa we were going to bounce back … and this is a hell of a way to bounce back.”

Caught up in the excitement, Wallace even cracked a few jokes, including one that will likely have his mother calling him soon — if she hasn’t already.

“I wish my mom was here, but this is a good luck streak,” Wallace laughed. “She wasn’t at Martinsville (last fall, his first career win), she wasn’t at Gateway (his second win, earlier this season), she ain’t coming no more.”

Larson gave it all he could but that final contact with the wall with three laps left did both him and his final hopes of winning in.

“It sucks, but Darrell did a really good job,” Larson said of Wallace. “He was fast all day today and ran close to the wall almost the whole time and didn’t hit it. … It’s frustrating but I’m glad to be able to come here and race on dirt for probably the only time we’ve done this year.

“… I didn’t think we were really that good, so I guess I was a little surprised that we were battling for the lead there at the end.”

It was Wallace’s second victory of the season and the third of his career. He dominated the 150-lap event, leading 97 laps around the ½-mile track in western Ohio. He also led all three segments, being at the front of the field after the first 60 laps, then at the 110-lap mark and finally at the finish.

It was the eighth of 10 wins this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports (five by Kyle Busch, two by Wallace and one by Erik Jones). KBM has also now won 11 of the last 15 NCWTS events since Wallace’s first career win at Martinsville last fall.

Ron Hornaday Jr. finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Ken Schrader and Ty Dillon in fifth.

“I beat the heck out of my truck, I can’t believe it stayed running,” Hornaday said. “It is so fun to come out here. … Bubba definitely had his (truck) really hooked up.”

Added Schrader, “We (he and Hornaday) messed up the youth brigade, that’s for sure. As much fun as it was running, I hope everyone enjoyed watching it because we were running all over the place.”

Sixth through 10th were John Hunter Nemechek, Jeb Burton, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and last year’s race winner, Austin Dillon.

Tyler Reddick was 11th, followed by German Quiroga Jr., Ben Kennedy, Joey Coulter, Tyler Young, Timothy Peters, Chase Pistone, JR Heffner, John Wes Townley and Gray Gaulding in 20th.

The rest of the field from 21st was TJ Bell, Mason Mingus, Bryan Silas, Korbin Forrister, Michael Annett, Larson, Norm Benning, Jody Knowles, Erik Jones and Michael Affarano.

There was also a shakeup in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings after the event.

Series rookie Ryan Blaney, 20, took over the lead in the standings for the first time in his career. He leads former points leader Matt Crafton, who dropped to second, by four points. Johnny Sauter remains in third, 10 points back. Hornaday moved up to fourth, 19 points back, and German Quiroga fell back to fifth, 26 points back.

With the win, Wallace jumped from eighth to sixth, 28 points back, Ben Kennedy is seventh (-37), Timothy Peters is eighth (-42), Joey Coulter remains in ninth (-57) and John Wes Townley stays in 10th (-65).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Perhaps the best part of the race came on Lap 128, when Larson and Wallace got into a classic beatin’-and-bangin’ segment battling for the lead.

Wallace was in the lead but then Larson did a slide job in front of Larson. But at the same time, Larson also kept sliding into the outside retaining wall, sustaining some damage, but he was able to continue on.

After a brief caution for a spin out of another truck, Larson led briefly on the restart but Wallace quickly regained the lead on Lap 133, 17 laps from the finish — and held on the rest of the way.

John Wes Townley, Tyler Young, Jody Knowles, fan favorite Norm Benning (62 years old, by the way) and Michael Annett made the main event in the “last chance race.”

Four drivers failed to make it into the big race: Cody Erickson, Jennifer Jo Cobb, Joe Cobb and Jared Landers.

NOTES: Wednesday’s race marked the end of one era and looking ahead to the start of a new one for broadcaster Rick Allen. He has called 278 NCWTS races over the last 12 seasons on SPEED TV and its successor Fox Sports 1, starting with the season opener at Daytona in 2003. He’s broadcast from 32 different tracks, called 61 different winners and nine different series champions. Allen has witnessed 43,048 laps run and a total of 53,143 miles of racing. He will become the lead Sprint Cup Series play-by-play announcer for NASCAR on NBC telecasts next season.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.