Dirt dynamos Abreu, Bell delighted to dig for Eldora victory

Christopher Bell celebrates after winning at Eldora Speedway on July 22, 2015 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Getty Images)
Christopher Bell celebrates after winning at Eldora Speedway on July 22, 2015 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Getty Images)
Christopher Bell celebrates after winning at Eldora Speedway on July 22, 2015 in Rossburg, Ohio. (Getty Images)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers will be slinging and sliding Wednesday when they head to Eldora Speedway in Rossburgh, Ohio for the sanctioning body’s only national series dirt race – the Aspen Dental Dirt Derby (9 p.m. ET on FS1).

Two drivers ecstatic to get their rides muddy are young stars of the series, and experienced dirt aces, Rico Abreu, 24, and Christopher Bell, 21.

“I’m really looking forward to Eldora,” said Abreu, who won the 4 Crown Nationals at the half-mile track in 2013. “I’ve had some success there in the winged sprint cars, and midgets, so it will be nice to get on familiar ground and have some fun.”

At 14th on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase Grid (54 points below the cutoff line), Abreu essentially needs a win to capture a berth in the circuit’s playoffs. Eldora is the most likely spot for a triumph from the No. 98 ThorSport Racing driver, whose celebrated dirt resume includes wins in the last two Chili Bowl Nationals, a victory in the 2015 Pepsi Nationals and wins in both the 2013 and 2014 Johnny Key Classics.

“I’ve struggled reading asphalt tracks this year,” Abreu said. “My sponsor, Safelite, is based in Columbus (Ohio), so there will be a lot of people there supporting me and my ThorSport Racing team, so my plan is to have some fun, and hopefully it’ll be a good opportunity to get in the Chase.”

Bell, the defending Eldora winner, has secured a spot in the Chase with his victory at Gateway, but could lose it if there are more than eight winners at the end of the regular season – a possibility with five winners already and six races remaining before the playoffs. A second victory would lock up his Chase berth.

“Eldora is my favorite race track in the whole world. With winning last year and now having a ton more experience in the trucks, I’ll come into this year’s race with a lot of confidence.”

Bell’s accolade-filled dirt background is highlighted by his 2013 USAC National Midget championship. In addition to his partial NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule last season, the Norman, Oklahoma, native competed in sprint cars, compiling six POWRi Midget wins, two USAC National Midget wins, one USAC Silver Crown win and his second career World of Outlaws victory.

Bell and Abreu both competed in the Kings Royal sprint car competition at Eldora last weekend in preparation for Wednesday’s NASCAR race. Abreu placed runner-up in the A-Main on Saturday, while Bell finished 21st after wrecking late in the contest.

“We’ve got a little added pressure this year having an experienced dirt driver and the guy who won the race last year,” said Jerry Baxter, Bell’s crew chief. “But we know if we just go out and execute that this is a race that we can get our second win of the season and secure our Chase spot.”

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race Week Guide

Race: Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby

Place: Eldora Speedway

Date and Time: Wednesday, July 20 at 9 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 75 miles (150 laps); Segments of 40-50-60 laps

What to Watch For: Tyler Reddick, who began his racing career on dirt before transitioning to NASCAR, attempts to improve on his third-place finish at Eldora last year. He holds the title of youngest driver to start a World 100 sprint car race from the pole at Eldora (16 years old). … NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Larson will make his third career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Eldora. His best finish in the Aspen Dental Dirt Derby was a runner-up in the inaugural 2013 event. … Bobby Pierce goes for the win after barreling his way to a runner-up finish in his NASCAR debut, at Eldora, last season. … Three berths remain for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase with six races left in the regular season. … Series leader William Byron can gain sole possession of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie wins record with a fifth victory. He is tied with Kurt Busch (four wins in 2000) for the all-time rookie mark. … Norm Benning’s beating and banging effort in the Last Chance Race of the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Eldora race remains one of the enduring memories of the inaugural edition. As great as it was, Benning wants more. “We want to make some big news again,” Benning said. “That’s old news now. I really believe I can win that race if the stars line up right. Bodies don’t mean anything. Horsepower doesn’t mean anything. It’s what’s between the seat and the steering wheel and that’s what matters.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.