On Tuesday, Tony Stewart lobbied for a NASCAR Xfinity or Cup Series race at Eldora Speedway. A day later the Truck Series helped his campaign by hitting pay dirt once again with a door-banging, dust-raising two-lap dash to the finish in the Eldora Dirt Derby.
The race was a victory for Stewart as much as it was for Camping World Truck Series winner Chase Briscoe. The sixth Dirt Derby was the closest finish yet, with Briscoe nosing out ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger by 0.038 seconds in a two-lap overtime finish.
Hours after legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway racing promoter H.A Humpy Wheeler – who on Wednesday afternoon seconded Stewart’s request for an Xfinity or Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on dirt – bellowed the command, “Drivers, please start your engines!” Briscoe kept the discussion revved up.
“The best race car drivers in the world … should have to run on a dirt track,” Briscoe said, adding they already compete on road courses, superspeedways and short tracks. “I think a lot of the Cup guys that don’t run dirt will be just fine. I think they need to do it.”
»RELATED: NASCAR still digging the dirt at Eldora
If the latest installment of the Dirt Derby is an indication the wheels are already in motion.
Briscoe, who won Stage 2, led three times for a race-high 54 laps in a race scheduled to go 150 on the high-banked, half-mile track. The Derby went overtime with a two-lap shootout following the race’s ninth caution that lasted from laps 147-151.
Briscoe chose the inside lane. That put Enfinger on the outside. The two drag raced on the restart and entered Turn 2 trading paint and banging doors. They did the same coming out of Turn 4. As Enfinger slid a little sideways his bumper tagged the front quarter panel of Briscoe. Briscoe slid up the track a little and Enfinger bounced off the wall. Both drivers called it racing for a win.
“I pinched him off a little bit and he used me up but I would have done the same thing,” Enfinger said. “It was good, hard racing. … It was a heck of a race.”
“I know (Enfinger) is running for a championship and he’s our teammate,” Briscoe said. “I wasn’t going to wear him out. I wasn’t going to just wreck him for the win. We rubbed, and I definitely let it float on the way to the wall and I’m sorry for that, it’s not how I race.
“The whole reason to let me come do this was – first of all I knew I would have fun – but the main reason was to try and get a win.”
Fast-qualifier Ben Rhodes, coming off his win at Kentucky Speedway last week, led twice for 44 laps and won the first stage. Rhodes said his driving on dirt resembled Bambi on ice. But on lap 45 he looked more like Thumper. Rhodes smacked the wall and repairing the damage dropped him a lap down. He never recovered and finished 29th.
Logan Seavey, the USAC national midget points leader as a rookie, was on pace to join Mike Skinner (1995), Robert Pressley (2002), Kasey Kahne (2004) and Ryan Newman (2008) as the only drivers to win a Truck Series race in their first start. Seavey led 53 laps right up to lap 144.
But Briscoe rocketed off a restart and into the lead as Seavey got boxed in the middle by Stewart Friesen and Enfinger. Seavey – who at one point had a nearly four-second lead before a caution erased it – finished eighth in an impressive debut.
“I think he’s the next big thing, honestly,” Briscoe said of Seavey.
ThorSport drivers Briscoe (54), Rhodes (44) and Enfinger (1) helped the Sandusky-based team lead 99 of the 153 laps. The team also put three drivers inside the top five with defending Derby champ Matt Crafton’s fourth-place finish.
In keeping the NASCAR theme, Wednesday’s undercard modified race featured four former Cup drivers with Kenny Wallace, Kenny Schrader, David Reutimann and David Stremme. They were all topped, though, by Eldora regular Jacob Hawkins of West Virginia.
Dayton’s Donnie Jeschke scored the biggest win of his stock car career by winning Wednesday’s 15-lap feature.
All three features – including Jeschke’s last-lap pass for the win – entertained a crowd that spilled out of the grandstands and around the hillside seating. It also impressed Wheeler.
“It speaks volumes about what the race fan really wants,” Wheeler said.