Q&A: FOX Sports 1’s Ray Dunlap reveals the favorites for Eldora

Darrell Wallace Jr. (54) leads a line of vehicles during the first Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

With the second-annual NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway set for Wednesday night, reporter Ray Dunlap took a few minutes to break down the storylines he is watching as the series hits the dirt live at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. 

Who is your favorite for the win this year?

"My favorite is a three-fold answer because you’ve got Austin and Ty Dillon coming back with a full-blown RCR effort behind them to defend last year’s win by Austin. He’s obviously a favorite again and easily could pull it off again. I’m also watching Kyle Larson, who has great sprint car and dirt-racing experience, to be strong in a Turner Scott Motorsports truck. Look for Austin and Kyle to fight it out again this year, which would make for a nice continuation of not only last year’s battle for the win but also their Rookie-of-the-Year battle in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. My other favorite is Ken Schrader. His Federated truck was good last year but not good enough. He’s amazing on dirt, has raced in 40 states, has been dirt racing all summer and will be fired up. Those three have the best shot of stealing the show from the Truck Series regulars. Then I’d add Joey Coulter and Tyler Reddick to the mix."

Which Truck Series regular most impressed you last year at Eldora?

"Joey Coulter has a background in dirt Late Model racing, so everyone expected him to do well, and he did. I expect he’ll also be a contender for the win this year. Beyond Coulter, the biggest surprise was Darrell Wallace Jr., who had no dirt background last year, took to dirt racing really well. He adapted the best out of everybody with basically no experience, but in the big picture, Coulter rolls in there with more experience."

What was the biggest takeaway for you from last years race at Eldora Speedway?

"Most people didn’t know what to expect with Eldora being such a new concept for many of our drivers, but they all adapted well. The battle for the transfer spots was very exciting. A lot of times, heat races don’t mean much, but those did."

How much of a learning process was last years Eldora race for the competitors?

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"It was fun to watch some of the guys who had never been on dirt before get out there last year and experiment to figure out where the edge is. And there is an edge in dirt racing. They found out they could run the right-rear quarter panel right up against the wall. So many of them had never done anything like that before. The drivers with dirt experience had a big advantage last year, but most of them now have tested on dirt, and after running at Eldora last year, no one will make a fool of themselves again this year."

Which series regular do you think has improved on dirt the most in the last year?

"Ryan Blaney. He has learned a lot about the whole dirt-racing process, and will be worth watching. Tyler Reddick, his teammate, also could surprise a lot of people."

What will you be watching for in the last-chance qualifier race?

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"That is one of the best races. All the drivers know what’s on the line in that race. Go home or race that night. It will be a wild one. Remember Norm Benning transferring in last year? That was awesome, and it will be fun to see if he can be competitive again this year. A lot of people took notice of him after that drama, and I think he’ll have better equipment this time around and more people helping him out. The last-chance qualifier often is good for feel-good stories like his."

How will the complexion of the race vary from last year?

"There’s a different format in this race in two ways. First of all, it’s a one-day show this year, so the teams practice, qualify and race on the same day.  And the new rules don’t require drivers to pit between sessions, so expect a variety of strategies and somebody to stay out for track position while others pit for chassis adjustments and then make a run through the field. That should really shake things up and make for an unpredictable race."