Kyle Larson battles to win in thrilling dirt race at Eldora

Kyle Larson, driver of the #24 DC Solar Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Series 4th Annual Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby 150, at Eldora Speedway on July 20, 2016 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Getty Images)

Kyle Larson, driver of the #24 DC Solar Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Series 4th Annual Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby 150, at Eldora Speedway on July 20, 2016 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Getty Images)

Kyle Larson finally sealed the deal. After two years of frustration at Tony Stewart’s dirt playground in Rossburg Ohio, Larson fought his way to a hard-earned victory at Eldora Speedway Wednesday night.

“It means a lot, especially losing the way I did the two years I ran,” Larson said. “ I knew running a blue No. 24 I had to run hard here at Eldora. Rico (Abreu) does a really good job in a sprint car with that. I had to put on a show.”

Larson held off first Bobby Pierce who started from the pole and led a race high 102 of the 150 laps, then defending Eldora race winner Christopher Bell in the final laps for his second career Camping World Truck series win.  After starting seventh, Larson took the lead for the first time on lap 35, and held it through the first segment that ended at 40 laps and after a seven minute red flag for a multi-truck crash involving Timothy Peters, Spencer Gallagher, William Byron and John Hunter Nemechek among others.

After the restart, Larson held on to the lead until lap 52 when he lost a right rear tire and spun.  The caution flew as Larson stopped on the track and NASCAR penalized him for causing the caution.

Dirt track ace, and last year’s runner-up, Bobby Pierce took command but by lap 73, and several cautions Larson was back on the lead lap and moving forward.  Bell was in second by lap 79 and he and Pierce fought side by side at times with Pierce holding the advantage.

At the end of the second segment at lap 91, the top five stayed out.  On the restart, Larson shot to the inside and grabbed third as Bell and Pierce continued their battle for the lead.  Larson was able to take second on lap 101 when Bell hit the wall on the frontstretch after exiting turn 4.  Soon Larson had caught Pierce and was looking for the lead, as Bell clung to third. Larson was able to take the lead with 30 to go, but Pierce stayed close.

“We got the flat tire there early, I knew we would get a lucky dog, I just didn’t know if I could get back to the top-three as quick as I did,” Larson said. “It just worked out where I got by (Christopher) Bell when he got in the wall and I think Bobby (Pierce) had a gear issue. He was definitely better than I was for sure. “

Five laps after Larson took the lead, Pierce dove under Larson entering turn 1 and momentarily had the lead but slid across the front of Larson and hard into the wall. Moments later, the right rear tire on Pierce’s Chevy went flat and he spun into the inside wall near turn 2. The races ninth and final caution flew and Pierce was done for the night.

“The carburetor was flooded and I couldn’t get off the corner at all. Larson drove a great race,” Pierce said. “When that happened on the restart, I caught him a little bit, he hit the wall and I tried to slide him. I went in there a little too hard, it was super-slick and I got the wall and knocked the right-rear off the rim and that was that.”

The final restart came with 16 to go and Larson took command. Bell tried to grab the lead, but hit the wall and had to settle into second. Rico Abreu, who had also been penalized by NASCAR for passing too early on a restart , lost a lap and also fought his way back through the field, was in third in the final laps but had nothing for the front two as Larson with a battered truck trailing part of its rear bumper cruised to victory.  Jake Griffin was fourth followed by Tyler Reddick in fifth.

“Tony (Stewart) did an awesome job with the race track tonight,” Bell said after his runner up finish. “It was really technical, it was really tough to get around and it was really fun, too. Kyle’s been trying to win this race for a long time and it was cool for him to win tonight. The guys at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) worked really hard to put me in this position. I was disappointed we couldn’t repeat.”

Cole Custer was sixth, followed by Cameron Hayley, Daniel Hemric, Austin Wayne Self and Matt Crafton.  The full results can be found here. The Camping World Truck Series heads to Pocono Raceway on July 30th for the Pocono Mountains 150.


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