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Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Edges Jordan Anderson at Daytona

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Ben Rhodes edged Jordan Anderson and Cory Roper at the line to score his first career Daytona International Speedway win in Friday’s (Feb. 12) NextEra Energy 250 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

A caution involving 10 trucks with just four laps remaining set up the overtime finish that gave ThorSport Racing a victory in its first race after swapping from Ford to Toyota during the offseason.

Niece Motorsports teammates Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar rounded out the top-five finishers.

The Win That Could’ve Been

Rhodes may have been the one celebrating in victory lane, but Anderson and Roper nearly stole both the show and season-opening headlines.

Roper restarted third on the overtime finish and slapped the outside wall after a hard push from Sheldon Creed. But despite the contact, the driver of the No. 04 Ford didn’t let up, making a move to the inside that ultimately gave him the lead on the white flag lap.

He still had it coming off turn 4 until a hard-charging Rhodes picked the right line at the right time, beating Roper to the line by one-tenth of a second. Still, third marks a career-best finish for the 43-year-old, whose previous high was a ninth-place run at Texas Motor Speedway last season.

“I wish I had another shot at that, but you gotta be grateful for what you’ve got, we’ll take it, move on and build from it,” Roper explained following the career-best run. “Anytime you can have a great finish like this and be able to bring funds to better your equipment, it’s huge. To get started off the year with a good points night is a lot easier than trying to catch up from a bad night.

“The difference between last year and this year is we’re trying to build a team, get our shop completed. We were able to get quite a few good runs last year. We just had some bad luck.”

Interestingly enough, Roper nearly didn’t make the field and was the last one to qualify for the race on speed. Instead, he nearly scored his first career win and had plenty to smile about heading into next weekend’s race at the Daytona road course.

SEGAL: Roper’s Cinderella story nearly ends up in victory lane

Meanwhile, Anderson, who’s running a part-time schedule in the Truck Series while racing full-time in Xfinity, restarted 10th for the overtime finish. A combination of wrecking drivers and runs toward the front gone wrong opened up the track for Anderson to repeat his runner-up result from 2020.

“My whole life, having to fight and claw for everything that we have, all the partners and sponsorship that we’ve been able to put together and the people that have jumped behind us, to just be here on this national stage is so special and means so much,” Anderson said while beaming as if he’d just won the race. “You asked me how I can get excited about it, just being here is exciting; to have an opportunity to race in NASCAR, the Camping World Truck Series, to be here in the series and compete is amazing enough.

“I think I’m most happy because we were, a month ago, so close to shutting down our Truck team. To come that close again to winning one of these things, the whole last lap is a blur.”

CHEEK: Anderson comes mere feet from first career Truck win

Quick Hits:

  • While it was the first race of the season and a chance for drivers to qualify their way into the field, it’s quite encouraging to have 10 more entries than there were spots for, one of the biggest Truck entry lists in quite sometime. There’s almost zero chance that many full-time teams will hold through the year. However, it’s an encouraging sight while the country still sits in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic so many have the money to compete early on. The 10 drivers who didn’t make the field were Parker Kligerman, Joe Nemechek, Todd Peck, Spencer Davis, Dawson Cram, Norm Benning, Jesse Iwuji, Ray Ciccarelli, Clay Greenfield and Tim Viens.

  • In a field that featured 46 trucks fighting for 36 spots, James Buescher was forced to use the past champion’s provisional after his qualifying time was disallowed for going below the double yellow line on his lap. To make matters worse, he didn’t even take the green flag before his night was over in a chain reaction accident before the field made it to the start/finish line. He finished 36th without ever completing a lap, along with Tanner Gray, who finished 35th after suffering mechanical issues at the drop of the green flag.
  • After spending the 2017 season full time with Hattori Racing Enterprises, Ryan Truex spent 2018 running in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing but has hopped around to whatever ride has been available since. Joining Niece Motorsports full time this season, hoping to rebuild his career, Truex laid the first brick with a fourth-place run. It’s his first top 10 in the series since a fourth at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2017.

  • John Hunter Nemechek made his return to the Truck Series after spending a year in the NASCAR Cup Series with Front Row Motorsports. One of the newest drivers at Kyle Busch Motorsports started seventh before finishing fourth and first in the first two stages, respectively. After getting caught up in multiple cautions late, Nemechek recovered to a seventh-place finish.

  • Codie Rohrbaugh, who scored a pair of top fives at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway last season, was once again in contention at a superspeedway race. This time around, though, he ended up eighth, which is still respectable for a team racing with heavy hearts. General manager Mark Huff passed away last week after a short illness.
  • Drew Dollar made his Truck debut behind the wheel of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota and ran inside the top 10 for much of the night. With an opportunity to be toward the front of the field in the closing laps, he was caught up in the 10th and final caution but still brought home a 10th-place finish in his debut. He’ll share the No. 51 Toyota with multiple drivers throughout the 2021 season.

  • Now in his second full season for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Derek Kraus is likely happy the season opener is over. After being involved in the opening-lap melee near the back of the field, this sophomore suffered a pair of cut tires that ultimately sent him to the garage and a 33rd-place finish to open the year. He made contact with another driver on pit road, too, giving him four different incidents on the night.

  • Jordan Anderson is running double duty this weekend as he makes his move to the Xfinity Series full-time. Bobby Reuse will take over the No. 3 Chevrolet for next weekend’s trip to the Daytona road course.

2021 Rookie Report

No. 1 – Hailie Deegan
No. 02 – Kris Wright
No. 18 – Chandler Smith
No. 23 – Chase Purdy
No. 42 – Carson Hocevar

No. of rookies in the race: 5

No. of rookies in the top 10: 2; Carson Hocevar, finished fifth; Chandler Smith, finished ninth

Rookie of the Race: Hocevar

After qualifying 12th, Hocevar quietly stayed out of the trouble throughout the race and put himself into position to open up his rookie season with a fifth-place result. In his previous nine Truck starts, he had a best finish of 12th at Dover International Speedway last season.

Point Report: One race in, Rhodes is the early points leader by four markers over Creed and Nemechek, who are tied for second. Chandler Smith sits fourth, followed by Grant Enfinger, who’s running a part-time schedule. Roper is sixth, followed by Truex and Raphael Lessard who are tied for seventh. Hocevar and Rohrbaugh round out the top 10.

Series regular winners: Ben Rhodes (Daytona)

Tweetable

Up Next: The Truck Series stays in the Daytona area for the BrakeBest Brake Pads 150 at Daytona presented by O’Reilly on the Daytona road course. Creed won the series’ inaugural visit to the track last August. Coverage for the race begins Friday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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