Ben Rhodes said last Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the Daytona International Speedway was the biggest of his career. He had won at Darlington last year and even his hometrack at the Kentucky Speedway a few years prior. But, this was the one that stood out.
Well, he did it again seven days later.
Rhodes, outlasted the field in nearly a three-hour, three overtime marathon on the DIS road course to earn his fifth career Truck Series victory.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Rhodes. “I don’t have words for it. I don’t even know what to say. This is so cool. I just have to thank my team. The Bombardier Tundra was fast all day. ThorSport Racing gave me a truck that handled this year and we were fast. Rich (Luches) is a really good crew chief. It’s good to be paired up with him and all of the guys on my team. I’m just thrilled. I don’t know what to say. I’ve been on cloud nine all week, so it’s above that. I’m just so happy.
“We did the sweep. I didn’t know that there was a sweep possible at Daytona, but we did it. I don’t know what to say. This Bombardier Tundra was fast from the get-go.
“Starting on the pole, I knew that if we just played it safe, if I gave up the lead – I didn’t care about the laps led, none of that stuff. We didn’t need an ego, we needed to win the race. We played it smart all day. The rain was so fun. I prayed for the rain before the race and we got it. I just wish it had stayed the whole time because we were making so much hay once I got the handling down on it. I honestly didn’t want it to go dry, but I guess I’m glad that it did because it worked out okay.”
The ThorSport Racing driver was first worried about Sheldon Creed’s aggression. He was then worried about John Hunter Nemechek for the same reason. They would restart second and third behind Rhodes in overtime.
Rhodes, didn’t flinch though.
He first took the lead on Lap 36. He was passed by Creed on the Lap 42 restart, but Rhodes got him back on Lap 44 to lead the final seven laps of the race in his No. 99 Toyota to net a clean sweep of the Truck Series action at Daytona this month.
He thought he had won the race as he was coming to the white flag, but there was a crash on the front stretch chicane while Rhodes was just feet away from taking the white. If he had taken the white flag, the race would have been over. Instead, the yellow froze the field as we’d have to endure three more restarts.
Creed, led a race-high 17 of 51 laps but just missed out on the victory to Rhodes. He was doored by a lapped Truck early on and was forced out of the lead by Rhodes to earn his second top two finish in as many tries on the road course in Daytona.
“Never fun being the first loser,” Creed said. “But my guys brought a fast truck and I felt like we were on top of the strategy there going to slicks early. Man, got hit by a lapper there leading and I don’t think that did us any favors and got to the lead, saving fuel and then worked way back to the lead got pushed out the way on the restart, just doing everything I could there. Wished it could have stayed green.”
Nemechek had an interesting night to go from leading the first 14 laps, then stalling on track, to running out of gas to rebound to finish third in his No.4 Toyota.
Todd Gilliland finished fourth in his No. 38 Ford while Riley Herbst rounded out the top five in his No. 17 Ford.
Rhodes/Creed Battles Could Spark Rivalry
Ben Rhodes wasn’t happy with his teammate earlier. He then was worried about Sheldon Creed late in the race about Creed’s aggression.
Creed, won on the road course last year and led the most laps tonight. Rhodes knew of Creed’s aggression behind and knew he’d have to counter and match it.
The two had run ins on track a couple of times in the end. Neither are very happy with one another.
“I wasn’t very happy with that,” Creed said of Rhodes’ move by. “I thought I passed him for the lead cleanly … and he just drove into me onto 1 on the restart. I’ll remember that down the road.”
When asked about those comments, Rhodes said it was more the other way around.
“The guy tried to run me off the race track on the straights so I don’t know what he means by that ” he said. “We’re all out of control in Turn 1. Let’s not forget 2019, he walled me at Eldora and totaled my truck for seventh place. I didn’t total his truck. He can get over it.”
Nemechek, Gilliland, Grala, Crafton Put On Passing Show To Make Up For A Dull Night
Friday night’s Truck Series race was as bad as they come. Luckily, we had movers come through the field to give us some passing to watch.
Todd Gilliland started 32nd but came all the way up to near the top 10 by the end of the first stage. He would have finished in the points but hit pit road before the end of the stage and was caught with too many men over the wall during his service. He would finish 22nd. The second generation driver would come back up though to finish fifth in the second stage. He had to pit though after the stage break and would rebound to come back with a fourth place result.
Kaz Grala started 24th and finished eighth. He was in the points before pitting in the first stage and came home second in Stage 2. Like Gilliland, he had to pit at the conclusion of Stage 2 and there he was near the top five in the overtime restarts.
Matt Crafton kept the wet tires on too long and would fade to outside the top 15 before having to go to the slicks. He made up a ton of ground on the restarts to bring his No. 88 Toyota home in sixth.
John Hunter Nemechek had the wildest ride. He jumped out to an early race lead. Nemechek, passed Ben Rhodes on the opening lap and would lead the first 14 circuits around the 3.61-mile DIS road course including taking the stage win in the first segment. He’d remain out of the pits after that stage and it cost him.
He was passed by Sheldon Creed on Lap 15 with Creed having fresher tires. Nemechek though, would settle into the top four. Then, he ran out of power on Lap 21 and would stall on the backstretch. He went from fourth to 35th, one lap down.
The second generation driver received the free pass on the Lap 30 caution, which put him back up to 30th. Unfortunately, he’d run out of gas then and have to pit under that caution.
From the lead to a shot at a win, to stalling on track to running out of fuel to making up for it all. Nemechek, would make up over 25 positions in the closing laps to bring his No. 4 Toyota home in third.
Just five days ago, the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski crashed while battling for the win in last Sunday’s Daytona 500. The Truck Series saw two sets of teammates get into one another on Friday night.
Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter had a run in for which Rhodes said this of Sauter, “Johnny’s a fucking bitch. Tell him I’m going to ship his ass.”
That’s telling out of ThorSport teammates.
Then, a few laps later, the Niece teammates of Ryan Truex and Carson Hocevar crashed on pit road together on Lap 30.
Zane Smith Ready To Get To Homestead
No one is as happy to leave Daytona than Zane Smith. He made it to the Championship 4 last year but his first two starts of the season have been horrible. He was caught up in a crash last Friday night on the oval in Daytona and finished 16th. He was crashed again on the road course a week later and finished last (40th). It’s not been a great start to his 2021 season thus far.
It’s not been a great start to the 2021 season. The season opener saw 42.6% of the race run under caution as 43 of the 101 laps on last Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 was run under caution. Well, the second event saw even more caution laps with 10 cautions displayed over the 51 lap event.
To make things worse, this race was nearly 3 hours in length (2-hours, 47-minutes). They turned just 51 laps in 3 hours time. Out of those 51 laps, 20 of them were under caution.
That’s 39.2% of all laps run on Friday night under yellow. That comes after 43% run last week. Overall, we’ve run 152 laps at Daytona in 2021 and 63 of those laps (41.4%) were under caution.
That’s not ideal.
What made this ending rough was that we saw just two full completed green flag laps run since Lap 30. Total. There were cautions on Lap 30, Lap 36, Lap 38, Lap 41, Lap 44, Lap 47 and Lap 50.
This was one of the worst races we’ve seen in quite some time.
Rhodes makes ThorSports 2-for-2 since their move back to Toyota. By virtue of that, Toyota now has 200 career Truck Series victories.