Rhodes Wins at Daytona Road Course, Opens Season with Back-to-Back Victories

After winning last weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series opening race on Daytona International Speedway’s tri-oval circuit, Ben Rhodes repeated his performance on Daytona’s road course on Friday night, capturing his fifth career win and his second in a row after holding off John Hunter Nemechek and Sheldon Creed on multiple late-race restarts.

Rhodes not only captured his second win of 2021, but the win also marked Toyota’s 200th Truck Series victory.

“This feels amazing,” Rhodes said. “[I’m] so happy to get Toyota their 200th win. That means so much to me considering that I got my first win in a Toyota.”

Rhodes’ win also makes him just the third driver in Camping World Truck Series history to win a season’s first two races.

The race was plagued with 10 cautions which consumed 20 of the race’s 51 laps, setting a record for the most cautions in a road course race in Truck Series history.

The race had nine lead changes between six drivers and, because of the numerous cautions, an average race speed of just over 67 mph.

The Camping World Truck Series will be off next weekend and will race next on Friday, March 5 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Rhodes will attempt to become the first in Truck Series history to win the first three races of a season at the track where he won his very first race.

RACE OVERVIEW

Stage 1 – 12 laps

The race started under wet conditions with Ben Rhodes out front as some drivers slipped on the soaked Daytona track surface. John Hunter Nemechek took the lead on lap 1coming out of turn 6, and a lap later, Sheldon Creed took second place from Rhodes. 

The stage produced calm racing despite the very slippery surface, but Cory Roper, last week’s third-place finisher, spun in turn 3 and couldn’t get refired, bringing the first caution with four laps to go in stage one.

Under the caution, some drivers elected to pit. All teams who pitted elected to replace their rain tires with another set of rain tires except for Christian Eckes in the no. 98, who changed his wet tires to traditional racing slicks.

The race restarted on the final lap of the stage. Nemechek overshot turn 1, giving the lead to Rhodes temporarily. He took the lead back off of turn 5 and sailed away to win the first stage of the night.

The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Nemechek, Rhodes, Chandler Smith, Brett Moffitt, Ryan Truex, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill, Creed and Riley Herbst.

Stage 2 – 13 laps

Under the stage-end caution, most drivers pitted for new tires and fuel. Nemechek, who won stage one, elected to stay on track and keep his valuable track position. Eckes, who replaced his rain tires with racing slicks under the last caution, replaced his slicks with rain tires since the slicks weren’t providing enough grip.

The race restarted on lap 14 with Nemechek in control, but defending series champion and the most recent series winner at the Daytona road course, Sheldon Creed, took the lead coming out of turn 6. Tanner Gray spun further back in the pack through the backstretch chicane, but the race stayed green.

On lap 16, Creed was lapping the no. 3 truck of Bobby Reuse, who lost traction and drove right into Creed’s door. Creed was able to continue racing, but his truck did suffer minor damage. Behind Creed, Nemechek was losing ground. Zane Smith passed Nemechek for second and Raphael Lessard was soon passing him for third. Not far behind Nemecheck, who was now in fourth, was Kaz Grala.

With four laps remaining in the stage, Nemechek lost oil pressure and coasted from turn 6 all the way to turn 10. Creed gave up the lead for four slicks, and many drivers followed Creed. Lessard inherited the lead from his teammate in time for the caution to come out for Nemechek, who rolled to a stop between turns 10 and 11 with three laps left in stage 2. Nemechek’s pit crew was able to get the issue fixed, but he lost a lap in the process.

The stage ended under caution with Lessard out front. The rest of the top-10 finishers were Grala, Smith, Austin Wayne Self, Todd Gilliland, Matt Crafton, Hailie Deegan, Creed, Chase Purdy and Brett Moffitt. 

Race to the finish – 19 laps

A number of drivers came into the pits during the second stage-end caution, which put the lead back in the hands of Sheldon Creed, who elected to stay out with Matt Crafton. Creed took a commanding lead when the green flags came back out on lap 27 on his Goodyear slicks. One by one, trucks began passing Crafton, who was still on wet tires. 

With 14 laps to go, the caution flew again. Carson Hocevar and Ryan Truex ran into each other at pit road’s exit and Timothy Peters cut a tire down. Under the yellow, Creed was trying to save fuel by shutting his engine off and turning it back on, a common practice in NASCAR’s top divisions. Unfortunately, he fell off the pace and his engine had trouble refiring, falling from first to fifth and handing the lead to Riley Herbst. 

The green flag flew with 9 laps left, numerous drivers at the front slid their tires through the first few turns, allowing Creed to climb to second, but a pileup exiting turn 12 collected Zane Smith, Parker Chase, Raphael Lessard and brought the caution right back out, just a lap after the race restarted.

With 6 to go, Ben Rhodes launched out in front of the field on the restart as Creed got held up by Herbst. The no. 22 of Spencer Boyd spun on one end of the track while Austin Hill spun in the backstretch chicane, and with both trucks sitting in the middle of the track, NASCAR threw the caution again.

Rhodes led Creed to the restart with 3 to go, but Creed drove into turn 3 deep to take the lead. Shortly after, Sam Mayer and Tanner Gray made contact in turn 4, bringing out the third caution in six laps.

Creed’s pit strategy was becoming a risk. With all of the caution laps, Creed was at high risk of running out of fuel. The lap 41 caution also sent the race into overtime. Creed led Rhodes back to green, but Creed slid his tires, falling to third. Rhodes inherited the lead, but Creed wasn’t done. He passed Herbst for second almost immediately after being passed himself. Just a matter of feet from the start finish line to take the white flag, the caution flew again. Austin Wayne Self spun and hit the wall on the backstretch and Lessard spun through the frontstretch chicane, bringing out the eighth caution of the night, setting a new record for the most cautions in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on a road course.

The second overtime started on lap 47 with Rhodes out front. Creed fell into the clutches of John Hunter Nemechek, who was finally back on the lead lap. In turn 2 on the opening lap of the overtime, a crash involving Chandler Smith’s no. 18 and Tyler Ankrum’s no. 26 looked to be cause for another yellow flag, but it was Jennifer Jo Cobb’s truck, stopped coming out of turn 6, that brought out the ninth caution of the night, and sent the field into its third overtime.

Rhodes led the field to the green flag, but Creed took second back from Nemechek and began to run down Rhodes. Creed got close, but not close enough. The caution flag came out to end the race because of a truck stopped in the frontstretch chicane. Ben Rhodes was out front when the caution came out, securing his second win in as many weeks.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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