Home / Beth Lunkenheimer / Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Scores 1st Career Win in Las Vegas
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Scores 1st Career Win in Las Vegas

In a Nutshell: Ben Rhodes scored his first career win in exciting fashion Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A late-race caution, combined with scoring confusion on NASCAR’s part, set up a seven-lap sprint to the finish. And despite a hard-charging Christopher Bell, the driver of the No. 27 Toyota held on to score the win. Chase Briscoe finished third, followed by teammate Austin Cindric, who was involved in several run-ins throughout the race. Kaz Grala rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: You could have thrown the top six or eight drivers on the final restart into a hat and picked one, and each one looked to have an equal chance, especially given the scrambling that went on. But when the dust settled and Bell and Rhodes pulled away, it was the driver of the No. 27 Toyota that showed Bell he wasn’t going down without a fight, despite Bell having the faster truck for most of the race. While the driver of the No. 4 Toyota had a good excuse to dump Rhodes after a major block coming to the start / finish line, he didn’t and Rhodes was the one celebrating in Victory Lane.

Race Rundown

  • More than three months after the crash that saw him flipping down the Texas Motor Speedway frontstretch, Timothy Peters returned to the Truck Series. Piloting the No. 02 Chevrolet for Young’s Motorsports, the former Red Horse Racing driver qualified 20th but was forced to start in the rear of the field following unapproved adjustments. He ran a relatively uneventful race and ended up 11th.
  • For the first time since 2015, Travis Pastrana returned to the Camping World Truck Series, this time behind the wheel of the No. 45. But after completing just a handful of laps, Pastrana was on pit road, unable to fire his truck. The team made the necessary repairs to his truck, and he returned to the track, 26 laps down at the end of Stage 1. With the damage already done, he just logged laps until contact with Austin Wayne Self, who blew a tire to bring out the sixth and final caution, damaged the truck beyond repair. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish, his worst result in three series starts.
  • For the second race in a row, Johnny Sauter found himself battling back from damage. Last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it was contact from Noah Gragson that sent the No. 21 team scrambling to make repairs while remaining on the lead lap. This time, it was a big wreck on the restart to begin the second stage.

To make matters worse, he later suffered a flat tire after contact with Cindric, but despite the struggles he faced, somehow Sauter emerged from Las Vegas in 10th and maintains a somewhat comfortable cushion over the cutoff line heading into the third and final race in the Round of 8 at Talladega in two weeks.

  • Ryan Truex’s No. 16 Chevrolet featured the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation in an effort to bring more awareness to Childhood and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. After scoring his second pole in three races, Truex lost the lead in a three-wide battle on the first lap and spent much of the race inside the top five. But a late-race restart that saw plenty of jockeying for position resulted in Truex bouncing off of the wall with just a couple laps remaining. He ended up a disappointing 12th.
  • Entering the playoffs in third, a rear gear issue at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last week put John Hunter Nemechek deep in a hole early in the first round. Fast forward to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a chance to recover before the wild card that is Talladega. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet started 15th and spent a good portion of the race running inside the top 10. Despite a late-race fuel gamble that saw him stall the truck on pit road, Nemechek still managed to finish eighth, though he remains beneath the cutoff line with one race to go until the Round of 6.
  • Noah Gragson struggled for track position most of the race, so in a bold move, he stayed out when the rest of the field pitted between the second and third stages, hoping for a caution that would fall at the right time. But it wasn’t meant to be as the driver of the No. 18 Toyota was forced to make his stop. Making a green-flag pit stop is bad enough, especially for a driver who’s off cycle with the rest of the field, but it got worse for Gragson when he was busted for speeding. Then, to add insult to injury, the rookie was caught again while serving his pass-through, and he was forced to make serve a stop-and-go penalty. He ended up 13th, two laps down.
  • Myatt Snider returned to the Truck Series for his fifth career start but failed to complete a lap before contact with Stewart Friesen took him out of the race after a hard hit on the inside wall.

Truck Rookie Report
2017 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 13 Cody Coughlin
No. 18 Noah Gragson
No. 19 Austin Cindric
No. 24 Justin Haley
No. 29 Chase Briscoe
No. 33 Kaz Grala
No. 49 Wendell Chavous
No. 52 Stewart Friesen
No. 98 Grant Enfinger

No. of rookies in the race: 9

No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: 5; Chase Briscoe, finished third; Austin Cindric, finished fourth; Kaz Grala, finished fifth; Cody Coughlin, finished sixth; Grant Enfinger, finished ninth

Rookie of the Race: Briscoe

Playoff Points Update: Bell’s victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway locks him into the Round of 6, while Rhodes secured his spot in the next round via Saturday night’s win. Matt Crafton sits third, just three points ahead of Johnny Sauter. Chase Briscoe rounds out the top five but is followed closely by teammate Austin Cindric, who sits sixth.

Meanwhile, Kaz Grala sits eight points below the cutoff line, while John Hunter Nemechek finds himself 14 points out. With a margin as small as it is and Talladega looming, the bottom four in the playoff standings could see a major shakeup with the next race.

Best of the Rest Points Update: Ryan Truex remains ninth in the standings and holds a healthy 53-point lead over Grant Enfinger. Noah Gragson is 11th, followed by Justin Haley. Cody Coughlin, Wendell Chavous and Austin Wayne Self round out the top 15.

Quotable:

“I used every play in my playbook. I knew if I could keep him close to me, he couldn’t break the bubble. Every time he tried to break the bubble and get far away, he’d suck right up to the 27 Safelite Toyota Tundra and be right there on our bumper. So I had to keep him at a distance and that was most nervous thing I think I’ve ever done in my life. This was uncontrollable screaming on the radio. I don’t even know. This is the biggest high of my life. This is crazy. I just never thought it would come after so many things went wrong and now it did and we’re here.” Race winner Ben Rhodes

“Everything starts at the shop to prepare, we work until past midnight to work on this truck. We brought a complete new setup that we have never raced. We committed in practice and during the race, the strategy was to collect a lot of points, but in the second stage when our truck was good enough to win. Ben did an awesome job to keep Christopher (Bell) in the second stage and collect that stage win and the points. When this happened, towards the end of the race, I knew he could hold it. I knew who he was. They didn’t touch the truck much during the race, didn’t do many adjustments. It was all the work we did in practice to make the truck better and as the night came with the shadow, the truck just came to us. It was one of those nights that everything came together. They did the effort for us and we are really proud.” Winning crew chief Eddie Troconis

“Our DC Solar Tundra was excellent. Once the sun went down it was out there for a while. Just – I don’t know these trucks are so aero sensitive, it’s a lot of who does the best job of restarting and who has the best push. I just didn’t get it done on the last restart and it was frustrating for my guys. I’m happy for Ben (Rhodes), that was a cool win for him. He’s been long overdue for a win, and that was cool to race him that hard to get a win. I’m just upset for myself and bummed for my team, they did an excellent job. They did their part, brought a really fast Tundra to win.” Christopher Bell, finished second

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Talladega Superspeedway to conclude the first round of the playoffs. Last season, Grant Enfinger, who ran a part-time schedule, emerged victorious after leading 45 of 94 laps. Coverage for the fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola begins Saturday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiruisXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 13-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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One comment

  1. Well, I’m really “happy” to see they had an NCWTS race last night and I heard nothing about it in advance so I could watch it! This is one thing I hate about two different networks carrying the races. Neither one wants to dare mention a show the other one has coming up. How sad.

    I watched all of the practice for the MENCS cars along with qualifying and the race for the Xfinity cars and not a word was mentioned about a truck race coming up last night. I hate I missed it!

    What time did it come on?