Ben Rhodes Above Cloud 9 After Winning Back-To-Back At Daytona In Triple Overtimeby Hunter Thomas February 20, 2021 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ben Rhodes captured his first Daytona win last weekend in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opener, and on Friday night, he also conquered the Daytona Road Course in triple NASCAR Overtime.
The win on the oval at Daytona International Speedway marked the biggest win of Rhodes’ career. The Kentucky native has been competing in the series full-time since 2016, and on Friday, he upped the ante by sweeping Daytona in February. Rhodes became only the third driver in series history to open the season with back-to-back victories.
“We did the sweep,” Rhodes said. “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.”
Friday’s BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 went well beyond the scheduled distance due to the chaos that broke loose in the final laps. Rhodes had one of the strongest trucks throughout the night, but he couldn’t catch a break with the cautions. On the final restart of regulation, Rhodes restarted first, with Sheldon Creed alongside of him. Creed took the lead away, and back in the pack, Sam Mayer and Tanner Gray crashed exiting Turn 4. The caution came out due to Mayer being stuck the grass, and as a result, the field lined up for NASCAR Overtime.
This time, it was Creed with the advantage as he started first with Rhodes alongside of him. Rhodes took over the lead and before the field could take the white flag, multiple trucks spun throughout various sections of the track.
The second attempt at a NASCAR Overtime finish once again, saw Rhodes and Creed leading the field to the green flag, but this time, John Hunter Nemechek joined the battle up front. The caution came back out as Jennifer Jo Cobb was stopped at the entrance to pit road, and the field lined up for a third NASCAR Overtime restart.
Rhodes led the field to the green flag, but this time, it was Nemechek who started on his outside. Creed restarted third with Kaz Grala beside him. Hailie Deegan spun and got stuck in the grass, but the race remained green. Creed took over the second position, and on the final lap, he attempted to chase down Rhodes who controlled a solid lead. Rhodes was giving it all he had as he smoked the tires entering the corners while trying to hold off Creed. As the two drivers rounded Turn 3 on the oval, the caution came out, and Rhodes was named the winner.
“It was the most stressful race of my life for sure,” Rhodes said. “There’s been stressful races, but this was really stressful. I thought it was going to be taken away from us for sure. I’m not sure if they showed me throwing my hands up, I hope they didn’t. Hope they didn’t listen to the radio either. I was a little frustrated. Gosh, it all worked out now. So stressful, so stressful. I don’t think I’ve had one that stressful before.”
Entering this season, ThorSport Racing switched from Ford to Toyota. Rhodes’ victory on Friday night marked the 200th for Toyota Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
“It’s been huge,” Rhodes said about the switch to Toyota. “The support we get is unparalleled and the fact that their (Toyota/TRD) engineering, their engineering is what it’s all about. We’re not a Cup team, we don’t have 30 engineers. We’ve got a few, we’ve got our little engineering department that could and we get so much support from them that it bumps us to the next level. They don’t do it like anybody else and I think that’s why they have 200 wins now in the Truck Series.”
Despite his incredible display of braking skills, Creed had to settle for a runner-up finish. Nemechek, Gilliland and Riley Herbst rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Matt Crafton, Derek Kraus, Grala, Timmy Hill and Christian Eckes.
There were eight lead changes among six drivers. Creed led a race high of 17 laps. There were also 10 cautions for 20 laps.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will head towards the West and visit Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, March 5 for the Silver State 200. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FS1 at 9 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images