The lone NASCAR dirt track race took place at the historic Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio on Wednesday night, with the Camping World Truck Series putting on one heck of a show.
While the field included past champions, series regulars and even a former Sprint Cup champ, it was dirt track specialists Christopher Bell and Bobby Pierce that brought the fans to their feet all race long.
Before a spin by Timothy Peters brought out the caution with 11 laps to go, Bell and Pierce had been battling hard for the lead at the top of the track all race long. Battling hard lap after lap, both trucks got into the outside wall, with Pierce getting the worst of the damage. Despite having the rear section of his decklid hanging off the truck, Pierce remained on track for the final shootout.
Restarting the race with five laps to go, Bell was able to get a great jump on the fied to pull away with the lead. As Bell drove away to the win, Pierce was forced to fight tooth-and-nail with the NASCAR regulars to try and get back to Bell's back bumper. Just as it looked like Bell was about to win, Korbin Forrister's No. 08 Chevrolet spun to bring out the caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the final restart of the night, Bell got another great jump as Pierce struggled on the bottom lane. As Pierce was forced to battle with Austin and Ty Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Matt Crafton, Bell was able to create a gap and earn his first NASCAR victory.
"It's just unbelievable. I've been coming here quiete a few times," Bell said as fireworks went off over the track. "If you would would have told me two years ago that my first win at Eldora would be in a truck, I would've told you you were crazy.
"I'll tell you what, that's pretty awesome me and Bobby could come here and run 1-2," Bell said of his hard battles with Pierce throughout the night. "I never heard of him until I was at a sprint car race last year and he was running his late model. It's cool a couple of dirt guys can run 1-2 at a dirt racetrack."
Pierce was second, followed by Reddick, Erik Jones, Daniel Hemrick, Austin Dillon, John Hunter Nemechek, Cameron Hayley, Crafton and Ty Dillon.
Making his NASCAR debut, Pierce was fast throughout the day's practice, won the pole during qualifying and won his heat race. Coming up just one spot short of his first victory, Pierce gave it his all on the track -- and his truck certainly looked like it afterward.
"Oh, it was awesome," Pierce said of his head-turning performance. "I had a lot of people tell me before the race that I was going to the Kyle Larson probably (Larson contended for the Eldora win in 2014, but hit the wall multiple times). I didn't want to be the guy in second, but that's just how it goes. I was hoping I could get him back on that last run there, but Bell did a great job there, everything right to win the race."
With one of the fastest trucks in the field, Pierce primarily struggled on the late-race restarts that allowed the competition to his rear bumper.
"If I could have just got the restarts better, I think I could have had something for him," Pierce said. "It was a lot of fun. I'm out of breath."
The race featured single-car qualifying, which set the field for the five qualifying races. The night's main event was set by those advancing from the heat races, as well as two drivers from the last-chance qualifying race. Pierce, John Hunter Nemechek, Ken Schrader, Bell and Tyler Reddick all earned wins in their respective qualifying races.
The last time the NCWTS was in action, Ben Kennedy went for a wild ride at Kentucky Speedway. Wednesday night on the dirt track the fourth-generation France family member had to race his way into the main event.
Nemechek was able to get the jump on the initial start of the race to lead the first lap, but pole-sitter Pierce quickly assumed the top spot. Behind the two leaders, a hornets nest of trucks fought for position two-, three- and even four-wide at times. As the race went on, the dirt trackers put their skills to use and dominated the race.
Despite being a Sprint Cup Series champion, Keselowski struggled in his first ever race on a dirt surface. Driving his No. 29 Ford, Keselowski tried to gamble on pit strategy to get to the front of the field, but could not stay with the leaders. With less than 15 laps to go, Keselowski slid his truck into the corner, could not catch the rear end and hit the outside wall hard. The contact caused major damage to the right rear of Keselowski's truck, forcing him to pit road. Keselowski would finish 28th.