Austin Dillon wins NASCAR Trucks’ inaugural Mudsummer Classic

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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.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.