Ben Rhodes wins 2022 NASCAR Truck Series championship

Ben Rhodes began the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season by winning the first two races. On Friday night, he ended the season with his first series championship. Despite not winning the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, Rhodes finished ahead of Championship Round rivals Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, and Matt Crafton to secure the title in his sixth full year of Truck competition.

A pair of eliminated drivers led the way in qualifying as Chandler Smith won the pole ahead of Sheldon Creed. Rhodes topped the Championship Four with a fourth-place qualifying effort ahead of Crafton’s fifth. Zane Smith and Nemechek started thirteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Dawson Cram, Jennifer Jo Cobb, and Norm Benning missed the show.

Creed, reeling after missing the final round by just four points, quickly jumped to the lead. Ten laps in, Nemechek’s title hopes were quickly jeopardised when contact with Kris Wright caused him to brush the wall and his left-front tyre to go down. As a result, he fell two laps down and out of the top thirty. Lawless Alan‘s spin a lap later led to a caution.

Smith passed Creed for the top spot on lap 35 and led to the stage win. Todd Gilliland, Stewart Friesen, Rhodes, Carson Hocevar, Crafton, Christian Eckes, Zane Smith, and Derek Kraus rounded out the top ten; Nemechek was thirtieth. Taylor Gray spun with a downed right-rear coming to the finish.

Beating the field off pit road between segments, Creed assumed the lead to begin Stage #2. Nemechek elected to pit, subverting expectations that he would stay out and take the wave-around to return to the lead lap. The stage commenced with Creed taking off ahead of Rhodes. Although Nemechek began the stage as the first lapped truck and would rejoin the lead lap if a caution came out via free pass, Creed and the leaders eventually passed Spencer Boyd, shuffling the pass to him instead.

Much like in the first stage, Creed dominated the second before Chandler Smith took the lead on the final lap. Rhodes once again led the final four in third, followed by Friesen, Gilliland, Zane Smith, Hocevar, Crafton, Enfinger, and Eckes. Nemechek remained a lap down in twenty-seventh and the fourth driver a lap down behind Will Rodgers, Jordan Anderson, and Austin Wayne Self. While the three took the wave-around, Nemechek once again decided against it and assumed the free pass position.

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Friesen and Smith paced the grid to the start of Stage #3. A strong restart by Creed propelled him to the lead two corners later before the caution came out for Tate Fogleman‘s truck stopping on the track, finally placing Nemechek back on the lead lap. Creed continued to lead on the lap 106 restart. Four laps later, Zane Smith overtook Rhodes for third to become the highest-running playoff driver.

By the 20-to-go mark, Nemechek had caught Crafton for eleventh while Chandler Smith took second from Friesen. Smith cleared Creed for first on lap 133, and Friesen did the same to take second shortly after. With ten laps remaining, Rhodes chased down Zane Smith for fourth, an effort that was aided by lapped traffic and a tap from the rear, before completing the pass two laps later.

Chandler Smith drove off to his second career win, also securing him Rookie of the Year honours. He is the third Kyle Busch Motorsports driver to win ROTY after Erik Jones in 2015 (also won the championship) and William Byron the following year.

Behind Smith and Friesen, Rhodes placed third to win the championship. It is ThorSport Racing‘s fourth driver’s championship after Crafton won in 2013, 2014, and 2019, while Rhodes enjoys his first title since winning the now-ARCA Menards Series East in 2014.

“That was the hardest last forty laps I think I have ever driven in my life,” said Rhodes. “I was doing things to the race car I probably shouldn’t have been doing, it was dumb, but I had everything to lose. And we brought it home and won it. I don’t even know what to say. This is crazy. Bookends for the season, I am so proud of my ThorSport Racing group. This wasn’t like a vision we had, right, everyone wants to win it, but you just don’t know, it’s so hard.”

Zane Smith finished fifth to place runner-up in the standings for the second straight season. Nemechek, the regular season champion, concluded his night in seventh for a third-place points run. Crafton, who would have tied Ron Hornaday Jr. for the most championships in Truck Series history had he won, was twelfth.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 1 18 Chandler Smith Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 150 Running
2 7 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota 150 Running
3 4 99 Ben Rhodes ThorSport Racing Toyota 150 Running
4 2 2 Sheldon Creed GMS Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
5 13 21 Zane Smith GMS Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
6 9 98 Christian Eckes ThorSport Racing Toyota 150 Running
7 16 4 John Hunter Nemechek Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 150 Running
8 3 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 150 Running
9 6 42 Carson Hocevar † Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 150 Running
10 11 16 Austin Hill Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota 150 Running
11 17 13 Johnny Sauter ThorSport Racing Toyota 150 Running
12 5 88 Matt Crafton ThorSport Racing Toyota 150 Running
13 27 9 Grant Enfinger CR7 Motorsports Chevrolet 150 Running
14 14 26 Tyler Ankrum GMS Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
15 8 19 Derek Kraus McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota 150 Running
16 12 23 Chase Purdy † GMS Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
17 10 1 Hailie Deegan † David Gilliland Racing Ford 150 Running
18 23 51 Drew Dollar Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota 150 Running
19 18 40 Ryan Truex Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 150 Running
20 15 24 Jack Wood GMS Racing Chevrolet 150 Running
21 25 44 Dean Thompson Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 149 Running
22 30 34 Will Rodgers Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota 149 Running
23 29 3 Jordan Anderson Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet 149 Running
24 32 25 Willie Allen Rackley WAR Chevrolet 149 Running
25 19 32 Ty Dillon Bret Holmes Racing Chevrolet 149 Running
26 24 22 Austin Wayne Self AM Racing Chevrolet 147 Running
27 31 33 Chris Hacker Reaume Brothers Racing Toyota 147 Running
28 28 30 Danny Bohn On Point Motorsports Toyota 147 Running
29 26 17 Taylor Gray David Gilliland Racing Ford 146 Running
30 35 04 Cory Roper Roper Racing Ford 146 Running
31 36 20 Spencer Boyd Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 146 Running
32 20 02 Kris Wright # Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 143 Running
33 34 56 Tyler Hill Hill Motorsports Chevrolet 106 Alternator
34 21 12 Tate Fogleman Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet 98 Electrical
35 22 15 Tanner Gray David Gilliland Racing Ford 80 Rear Gear
36 33 45 Lawless Alan Niece Motorsports Chevrolet 11 Accident
Bold – Champion
Underline – Championship Round driver
Italics – Rookie of the Year
† – Competed for Rookie of the Year

Source link