Darrell Wallace Jr. did a bang-up job keeping Kyle Busch Motorsports in front of the pack in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Kyle Larson simply got banged up.
In a thrilling late-lap duel, Larson nearly drove the wheels off his No. 32 Glad Chevrolet. And the bumper, the quarter panel and spoiler, too.
As Larson continually beat his truck against Eldora’s unforgiving outer concrete wall, Wallace pulled away unchallenged — after Larson’s truck finally broke —to win the Mudsummer Classic on Wednesday at the half-mile Eldora Speedway.
Wallace, who had his own trouble figuring out Eldora in Wednesday’s practice and qualifying session, led 97 of the 150 laps for his third career Truck victory and second this season. It was also the eighth win in 10 races for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Busch has five wins, Wallace two and Erik Jones — the pole-sitter to start the Mudsummer Classic — has one.
The win also kept Toyota undefeated in the series this year. ThorSport driver Matt Crafton has the manufacturer’s other two victories.
“It’s cool to keep the Toyota streak going,” Wallace said. “I was kind of skeptical that this would be the one to break it. We came, we saw, we conquered.”
Wallace, who started sixth in the No. 54 ToyotaCare truck, led going into the race’s final 40-lap segment. He was cruising alone as Larson and runner-up Ron Hornaday Jr. were locked in a door-to-door battle for second.
After Larson dispatched Hornaday he closed in on Wallace. He reached his back bumper with 25 to go. Two laps later he used a classic Eldora slide job — the same move that helped him sweep the 4-Crown Nationals in 2011 — to grab his only lead of the race moments before a caution bunched the field in a two-file restart.
Wallace rocketed off the restart on Lap 133. Larson gave chance but was slowed time and again by slamming into the outer wall. His car finally broke after another bone-shaking blow with a couple laps left. Wallace ran off the white-flag lap as a personal victory parade. The margin of victory over Hornaday was 5.489 seconds.
Ryan Blaney, Ken Schrader and Ty Dillon made up the top five. John H. Nemechek, Jeb Burton, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and inaugural winner Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10.
“I hit the wall too many times. I hit it pretty hard on that last restart and every time I got to the cushion it sucked me in,” Larson said. “I feel really stupid. I don’t think anybody hit as many times as I did.”
Larson finished 26th. He just as easily could be the Mudsummer’s two-time winner. He finished second to Dillon in 2013 when Larson got caught in traffic. Dillon to cruise by underneath him and into history as NASCAR’s first winner on dirt since Sept. 30, 1970.
“He was using the wall pretty good all day,” Wallace said of Larson. “I would find it and try to stay off it as much as I can. I think that helped me toward the end of the race. I think I could actually hear (Larson) hit. He wanted to win. He was going to do anything he could.
“I never knew where the wall was with the tail. That’s what I struggled with all practice and qualifying. … I was like, I’ll just stay off the wall. On the last restart I was cranked to the right and thought I was spinning out. I just gassed it and got control on the restart and sailed away.”
Just as surprised at Wallace’s victory — just his second race on dirt — was his crew chief Jerry Baxter.
“I’m not sure my kid’s even made a mud pie before,” Baxter said. “I was shocked. He did a phenomenal job.”
The race, track owner and three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart hopes, is a prelude to NASCAR’s two biggest series racing at the track. Though he’s had no discussions with NASCAR about hosting the Nationwide or Cup Series, Stewart welcomes the idea.
“I think we can make it work,” Stewart said. “If you can take the trucks and make them work here, the Cup cars and Nationwide cars aren’t a big stretch from that. It’s just a matter is that something (NASCAR) wants to do. If we only run truck races from here on out — if we get the privilege of hosting truck races — we’re very happy doing that.
“If we ever had a Cup race here, I don’t think anybody in short-track racing would be able to top that. That would be the ultimate achievement for a short track.”