2017 started off pretty slow, but the Midwest Drift Union started what turned out to be a pretty crazy couple months. A couple days after MDU, I found myself back in Ohio for one of my favorite races, the Eldora Dirt Derby.
I’ve been coming down to Rossberg, Ohio for the Dirt Derby for the past four years, and it never gets old.
There’s a two stage qualifying format with the normal qualifying laps setting up the position for the qualifying races. There’s five, ten-lap qualifying races that set the starting order for the race. Then there’s a last chance race to set up the rear of the field.
The same day as the truck race, the big block modifies run too. These things are insanely quick.
While walking around pre grid I was checking out the inside of the trucks, because I love the inside of race cars. I saw this steering wheel and thought it was either just a wheel used to move it around the paddock, or the driver felt more comfortable with a wheel like this on dirt courses. Turns out it was just for paddock.
The race itself is at night, the qualifying races were held earlier in the evening while the sun was setting right into turn four.
It was also hot and humid. It was a hot, sticky and dusty start to the night.
The qualifying races were important, but it wasn’t worth tearing up the trucks so early.
Chase Briscoe was one of the most exciting to watch. It’s fun to watch and listen because you can hear just how much throttle play goes on during the corners.
Part of me hoped they would just run the race now while there was still some light.
Every time into turn one, every time.
Is there any better way to spend a Wednesday night? A pizza burger and a big dust bowl.
After the big block modified cars, there was a short break and then time for the big race. I walked up and down pit road trying to find drivers I recognized. There weren’t a lot. But this is Ryan Truex, brother of Martin Truex JR who is racing in the Monster Energy Series.
And this is Matt Crafton, a two time champion in the Camping World Truck Series. He is probably on of the most experienced drivers in the field. But he has never won at Eldora.
Just before the race the track trucks ran laps to pack the dirt down and get it ready for the race. An old Ford F150 on modified wheels looks awesome.
One of Eldoras most famous parts is the four wide salute to the fans. Take that Indy 500. And all the drivers were waving at the fans during the lap.
But they stopped waving when the green flag dropped. I still watch in awe as the trucks come around three, four, five wide all over the track. Some with oversteer, others running the low line and others right against the wall.
And as usual, something goes wrong. The tough thing is, Eldora is a .5 mile fast track. So once one or two cars spin, the whole field gets caught up in it quick.
Eldora is an interesting track because it isn’t built for a big series like this, so media can just walk right up to pit road without a fire suit and a helmet like other tracks. So I spend the middle part of the race watching the pit crews.
Most of the pit stops happen under yellow, mostly because all the trucks can’t fit at once. So there’s about three different groups that pit over three laps. And when a lot of trucks come at once, some have to come in at an angle and block the whole road so others have to wait. And have you ever seen someone use an ice scraper to clean mud off a NASCAR truck?
Riding the wall is like driving on a razor’s edge. The pillow, the dirt built up along the bottom of the wall, can act as a buffer and keep you off the wall. Giving you the a good run onto the straightaway with a lot of speed. But other times you can skip over the pillow and hit the wall. But it looks cool.
This is how close the infield is to the trucks when the go into pit road. Awesome? Awesome.
Pit road is paved but obviously the track isn’t. It’s a pretty harsh transition for a NASCAR.
And the noise! With all these trucks that closely packed together. It honestly hurts.
Matt Crafton was strong all race, and once Christopher Bell went out, it seemed like it was Matt’s race to win.
And to the win he did. Five Dirt Derbys, five different winners.
It’s not Eldora without the fireworks.
Or the fire.
One reason I love shooting NASCAR is seeing the winner. I’ve been watching NASCAR since the mid ’90s, so seeing names I know win is awesome. There’s a lot of drivers I don’t know nowadays, but Matt Crafton is name I’ve known forever, his first was in 2000.
Rico Abreu came out so excited you would’ve thought he won.
And the Eldora signature, golden shovel digging up the dirt.
And all the team members get their own glass jar filled with dirt.
I don’t think the Eldora Dirt Derby will ever get old. Leaving the track and 10pm and getting home at 3am does, note to self, get RV next year, but the race itself is still amazing. An assault to the senses and a real throwback to the old days of NASCAR. Do yourself a favor, and try to make it to next years event. You don’t even need to be a NASCAR fan.