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Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Goes Back-to-Back at Daytona

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In a Nutshell: Ben Rhodes completed a sweep of the two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Daytona International Speedway with a win Friday night, essentially dominating the BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 at the track’s road course configuration.

A downpour prior to the race made for less-than-ideal driving conditions, but precipitation stayed clear of the track for the duration of a two-hour, 45-minute race that became the longest Truck event in the division’s 26-year history.

Multiple late-race cautions dragged out a prolonged conclusion, where Rhodes nailed every restart to retain the lead and hold off Sheldon Creed, John Hunter Nemechek and other challengers. Creed and Nemechek had solid trucks all night, but neither had enough to get by the No. 99 as Rhodes won his second straight race, leading just 13 laps; the former duo finished second and third, respectively, both leading more laps than the eventual winner.

Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst rounded out the top five in a spin-filled, constantly under caution race that never seemed like it would end.

With the win, Rhodes also picked up Toyota’s 200th win in NASCAR’s tertiary division. His back-to-back wins to open the season marked just the third time a driver did so in series history.

The Win that Could’ve Been

Creed and Nemechek both fall under this umbrella. Creed ran near the front all race, as did Nemechek, but both had their issues: Nemechek ran well to start the race, took the lead from Rhodes in the first turn of the first lap and won the first stage. The second-generation driver then lost oil pressure while still running in the top five, charging back through the field and took several rows of trucks three-wide on a late restart to gain ground.

Creed, meanwhile, was a contender for most of the race in an unsponsored GMS Chevrolet but nearly had his chances at a win shattered early on when Bobby Reuse, driving Jordan Anderson Racing’s No. 3 that finished second last week, slammed his door. Creed was leading at the time, while Reuse was in the process of being lapped.

When the field finally, mercifully took the white flag, Creed was mere truck lengths behind Rhodes and looked like he might have a shot if the No. 99 made a mistake in one of the chicanes. He didn’t get the chance, though: a caution waved as Rhodes and Creed rumbled through the banking of turns 3 and 4 for the stopped No. 44 of Jett Noland on the frontstretch.

Nemechek, meanwhile, finished third but never really had a shot on the restarts. Rhodes and Creed seemed to get away through the oft-chaotic first turn, while Nemechek — and everyone else — were sucked back into a jumble of trucks fighting for position.

Quick Hits:

  • This season could very well be a prove-it year for Rhodes, and not just at ThorSport Racing. The road course marked just his fifth victory in an up-and-down career in the Truck Series, but it’s this kind of consistency that Rhodes has been looking for all along. While the first win generally solidified his spot in the playoffs, that berth could have been under attack if more than eight different drivers won races in 2021; with two, battling for a championship is all but guaranteed.

  • The 40-truck field was filled with quite a few underdogs, and nearly half the top-20 finishers fit the bill. Derek Kraus, Kaz Grala and Timmy Hill came home seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, while Camden Murphy, a driver who splits time between NASCAR and Monster Jam, finished 13th. Grala was a contender and ran inside the top five late but couldn’t get the Young’s Motorsports No. 02 in position during his one-off race for the team. Carson Hocevar brought his battered No. 42 home 14th after piling into the end of the turn 1 wall earlier in the race, and both Codie Rohrbaugh and Dawson Cram recorded top-20 efforts in the messy event.

  • Hocevar’s incident was part of a rough night financially for Niece Motorsports. Each truck was involved in an incident, with both Hocevar and Ryan Truex, who was having a solid night, suffering damage in the same wreck. Noland and Brett Moffitt were also caught up in incidents later in the race.

  • Along with Truex, it wasn’t the night that a few other prominent drivers wanted, either. Zane Smith and Sam Mayer both suffered race-ending crashes, Hailie Deegan ran off-track after being doored by another driver and Cory Roper, one week removed from a third-place finish falling just feet short of a win, suffered several spins and was forced to retire from the race due to fuel pressure issues.

2021 Rookie Report

No. 1 – Hailie Deegan

No. 18 – Chandler Smith

No. 23 – Chase Purdy

No. 42 – Carson Hocevar

No. of rookies in the race4

No. of rookies in the top 10: 0; the closest were Smith in 12th and Hocevar in 14th.

Rookie of the Race: Smith

Smith was never a player up front but took care of his truck as much as he could during the race and ended up 12th. Hocevar deserves a special mention, if only for bringing a half-wrecked Chevrolet home 14th after smashing into the sand-filled barrels at the end of pit road mid-race.

Point Report: After two races, Rhodes still leads the points; Nemechek now sits in second, nine points back. Creed, Smith and Matt Crafton complete the top five, Hocevar sits sixth and Raphael Lessard, who won stage two, is seventh. Rohrbaugh is eighth, Johnny Sauter ninth and the trio of Truex, Gilliland and Austin Wayne Self round out the top 10.

Series regular winners: Ben Rhodes (Daytona, Daytona road course)

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Up Next

The truckers get a two-week break before visiting Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 5. The 201-mile event is set for 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Austin Hill is the defending winner at the track after a victory there last fall, but Kyle Busch won the spring race last year.

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