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

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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).

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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

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500