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.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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