Driver was dominant on familiar substance — dirt
Wednesday night’s Mudsummer Classic was the first-ever dirt race for NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, and the first for a NASCAR national series in more than 40 years.
And Larson appeared ready to turn the historic event into a one-man show after deftly driving from his 13th-place starting position and into the lead in a span of less than 40 laps.
But a miscue on Lap 88 of the 150-lap race when Larson made contact with the slower entry of German Quiroga provided Austin Dillon with the opening he needed. And the Richard Childress Racing driver proved more than adequate on dirt himself, maintaining the lead through subsequent restarts and driving away to collect the win.
“I was getting through traffic really good,” said Larson, who was driving for Turner Scott Motorsports. “We spent a few laps around that truck, I think it was the 77 (of Quiroga) maybe, and I was getting just a little bit impatient. Kind of got into his right rear … it jerked the wheel out of my hand, got me out of shape and Austin was able to scoot by.”
Larson, a 20-year-old with extensive open-wheel experience, had been fast throughout both days of the Classic. A third-place finish in his qualifying heat landed him just outside the top 10 on the starting grid. He was inside the top 10 in less than 10 laps and inside the top five shortly thereafter.
“A lot of people were trying slide jobs early,” Larson said, “and I would sneak around them when they weren’t clear. Doing really good through traffic early and I saw Austin get into second, (I) got into the corner and just overdrove one corner and got into the back of a lapper. Got out of shape and (Dillon) was able to sneak by.”
Larson did have his chances late in the race, thanks to a pair of cautions — including one that pushed the race into a green-white-checkered finish and extended the race three laps past its scheduled distance.
Dillon had the preferred outside starting spot, and a fast truck. Larson was pinned down low, and eventually found himself battling with teammate Ryan Newman for the No. 2 spot.
“I had to restart on the bottom every time and I kept spinning my shifts … giving up a ton of track position at the end,” he said. “Then I just decided to (restart shifting) from third to fourth, try to keep my wheel spin down and make it easier on myself. It was a little bit better.
“I had to use up Ryan a quite a bit the last few restarts. But I felt like we had the fastest truck and had a shot at the win so I was just going for it.
“Came up a little short.”