In one of the most anticipated races of the year, Christopher Bell scored a dramatic win in the third annual 1-800-CAR-CASH Mud Summer Classic on the famed Eldora Speedway dirt.
It was the first victory for Bell in just his third career start. Bell’s triumph marked back-to-back victories for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the No. 54 Toyota Tundra at Eldora.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Bell in Victory Lane. “I’ve been coming here quite a few times and if you would have told me two years ago that my first win at Eldora was going to be in a truck, I would have told you you’re crazy. This is just fantastic. I’m just thrilled to be here.”
Veteran dirt late model ace Bobby Pierce scored the Keystone Light Pole Award earlier in the day, giving MB Motorsports, one of the longest running teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, its first-ever pole. Pierce lost the lead on Lap 1 to John Hunter Nemechek, but took it back on Lap 2.
Pierce maintained control of the race, until a Lap 42 restart when Bell, also a dirt veteran, swiped the lead from Pierce in Turn 1. Bell led through Lap 60.
When Spencer Gallagher spun on lap 53, NASCAR utilized the yellow flag to serve as the competition caution originally scheduled for Lap 60, allowing teams to come in for tires and fuel. Brad Keselowski elected to stay out during the caution, inheriting the lead alongside Bell for the Lap 61 restart.
Bell quickly slid by Keselowski a lap later and stretched his advantage by 1.5 seconds until a debris caution on Lap 72 brought the field to his bumper.
Through the race’s then-longest green flag stretch, Bell increased his lead on Pierce, but when Chris Fontaine spun on Lap 94, it once again bunched up the field.
On the restart, Pierce attacked Bell and stole the lead on the backstretch and kept it through a yellow for John Wes Townley on Lap 94. Bell slid in front of Pierce two laps after the restart and held the point until the end of segment two for the second competition caution of the night.
Under the yellow, most of the field elected to stay out, setting up for the start of segment three, a 40-lap dash.
Showcasing his dirt track skills, Bell checked out from the field with Pierce, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick chasing. The opportunity to pull away would be denied when the 11th caution flag of the night waved.
Chasing his first career win in his truck series debut, Pierce stalking Bell for the lead, made contact with the Turn 4 wall with about 15 laps remaining, causing significant rear-end damage. Even with a battered truck, Pierce stayed on the throttle. The challenge for the lead would be slowed with 11 laps remaining when Timothy Peters went for a solo spin in Turn 2.
A five-lap sprint to the finish set up for the winner of the 1-800-CAR-CASH Mud Summer Classic with Bell and Pierce up front on the restart.
Bell would accelerate hard, while a slow restart for Pierce put him in the clutches of Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick. Pierce escaped them and set his sights on Bell.
When Korbin Forrister spun with two laps to go, the drama meter pegged even more, setting up for a green-white-checkered finish.
On the final restart of the night, Bell refused to give up the race lead and withstood an attempted pass by Pierce on the last lap to earn the win.
“I’ll tell you that’s pretty awesome that Bobby and I could come here and run 1-2,” added Bell. “I never heard of him until I was at a sprint car race last year and he was running his late model. It’s pretty cool that a couple of dirt guys could run 1-2 at a dirt race track.”
Tyler Reddick finished third ahead of Erik Jones and Daniel Hemric. Inaugural Eldora winner Austin Dillon was sixth followed by Nemechek, Cameron Hayley, Matt Crafton and Ty Dillon.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on Aug. 1 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for the running of the Pocono Mountains 150 (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – 1-800-CarCash Mud Summer Classic
(4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 154, $37273.
(1) Bobby Pierce, Chevrolet, 154, $27697.
(5) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 154, $23646.
(19) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 154, $18870.
(17) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 154, $16430.
(10) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 154, $13086.
(2) John H. Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 154, $14794.
(9) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 154, $14745.
(12) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 154, $15695.
(15) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 154, $13346.
(3) Ken Schrader, Toyota, 154, $12347.
(27) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, 154, $14548.
(6) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 154, $14498.
(20) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 154, $14450.
(23) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 154, $15000.
(21) Chris Fontaine, Chevrolet, 154, $12100.
(18) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 154, $14302.
(30) Jody Knowles, Ford, 154, $14252.
(13) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 154, $14050.
(25) Sean Corr, Ford, 154, $12251.
(22) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 154, $13952.
(7) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 153, $13902.
(8) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 153, $13853.
(16) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, 153, $12554.
(26) Cody Erickson, Chevrolet, 153, $11654.
(32) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 152, $12456.
(29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 151, $11406.
(11) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 144, $11063.
(38) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 136, $10964.
(28) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Accident, 119, $10464.
(14) Chad Boat, Chevrolet, Accident, 110, $8964.
(31) Stewart Hayward, RAM, Engine, 79, $7964.
Chris Knight – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images