Ben Rhodes wrapped up a perfect pair of race outings at Daytona International Speedway answering his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory on the oval last week with a dramatic win Friday night on the infield road coursing the BrakeBest Select 159 Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts.
It took three overtime starts to secure the victory over 2020 series champion Sheldon Creed, but Rhodes’ work in the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota marked only the third time in series history a driver has opened the season with back-to-back wins. And it marked the 200th victory for Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Rhodes, 23, of Louisville, Ky., crossed the finish line .320-seconds ahead of Creed – the running order frozen, however, when a caution – one of 10 on the night – came out with a half-lap remaining in overtime.
John Hunter Nemechek, who won Stage 1 and led 14 laps on the night, finished third. Todd Gilliland, who started 31st, rallied to an impressive fourth-place finish and Riley Herbst rounded out the top five.
Matt Crafton, Derek Kraus, Kaz Grala, Timmy Hill and Christian Eckes completed the top 10. Rookie Hailie Deegan was running in the top-10 until a spin on the final lap of overtime. She finished 28th.
“Unbelievable, I don’t even have words for it,” Rhodes said after climbing out of this truck just below the flag-stand on the frontstretch. “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 (Lushes) 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.”
Certainly, Rhodes was in a celebratory mood following the race, but it was a tense finish. He was about 50-yards shy of the flag-stand on the first overtime period when a caution came out extending the race instead of earning him the trophy then.
He and Creed – who led a race best 17 laps – dueled for the lead multiple times in the closing laps – often exchanging the point during the infield series of turns of the road course.
“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.”
The race started under wet conditions with teams having to decide when the track was dry enough to switch from rain tires to slicks or “dry” tires. Nemechek was the early leader – pacing the field for the opening 14 laps until his No. 4 Toyota suffered an oil pressure and fuel pick-up problem, leaving the Tundra on track and necessitating a caution. Later he ran out of gas and at one point was a lap down to the leaders before racing back to the front in the closing laps.
Rhodes had to deal with Creed and then ultimately Nemechek’s comeback as well, to earn his fifth career victory.
“It was the most stressful race of my life for sure,” said Rhodes. “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.”
Round two of the Daytona NASCAR Weekend tripleheader continues Saturday with the SuperStart 188 At DAYTONA presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts (52 laps) for the Xfinity Series, which gets the green flag at 5 p.m. ET (frontstretch gates open at 3 p.m.). The O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 for the NASCAR Cup Series will get a 3 p.m. ET start on Sunday (frontstretch gates open at 12:30 p.m.). The event will consist of 70 laps.
A limited number of tickets are still available with kids starting at only $10. Kids 12 and under are FREE on Saturday in select sections. To be a part of the action, fans can visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
All events will be conducted in accordance with enhanced safety protocols and procedures to provide a safe environment for guests, NASCAR competitors, employees and the local community. All guests will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit.
Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest speedway news.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – BrakeBest Brake Pads 159 at Daytona Presented by O’Reilly
DAYTONA Road Course
Daytona Beach, Florida
Friday, February 19, 2021
1. (1) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 51.
2. (5) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 51.
3. (4) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 51.
4. (32) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 51.
5. (25) Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 51.
6. (9) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 51.
7. (31) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 51.
8. (24) Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, 51.
9. (34) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 51.
10. (16) Christian Eckes, Toyota, 51.
11. (30) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 51.
12. (8) Chandler Smith #, Toyota, 51.
13. (37) Camden Murphy, Chevrolet, 51.
14. (3) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 51.
15. (14) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 51.
16. (7) Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, 51.
17. (38) Dawson Cram, Chevrolet, 51.
18. (19) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 51.
19. (28) Tate Fogleman, Chevrolet, 51.
20. (33) Tanner Gray, Ford, 51.
21. (26) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 51.
22. (29) Chase Purdy #, Chevrolet, 51.
23. (22) Parker Chase, Toyota, 51.
24. (27) Timothy Peters, Chevrolet, 51.
25. (21) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 51.
26. (12) Raphael Lessard, Chevrolet, 51.
27. (13) Bobby Reuse, Chevrolet, 50.
28. (23) Hailie Deegan #, Ford, 50.
29. (35) Jett Noland, Chevrolet, Accident, 49.
30. (15) Danny Bohn, Toyota, 49.
31. (2) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 48.
32. (39) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 48.
33. (20) Austin Hill, Toyota, 48.
34. (6) Cory Roper, Ford, Fuel Pressure, 47.
35. (17) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 47.
36. (40) Lawless Alan, Toyota, 45.
37. (36) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, Accident, 41.
38. (18) Jason White, Chevrolet, 41.
39. (10) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, Transmission, 38.
40. (11) Zane Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 35.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 67.044 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 44 Mins, 46 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 20 laps.
Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Nemechek 1-14;S. Creed 15-21;R. Lessard 22-26;S. Creed 27-33;R. Herbst(i) 34;S. Friesen 35;B. Rhodes 36-41;S. Creed 42-44;B. Rhodes 45-51.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Sheldon Creed 3 times for 17 laps; John Hunter Nemechek 1 time for 14 laps; Ben Rhodes 2 times for 13 laps; Raphael Lessard 1 time for 5 laps; Stewart Friesen 1 time for 1 lap; Riley Herbst(i) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,99,18,45,40,88,13,16,2,17
Stage #2 Top Ten: 24,02,21,22,38,88,1,2,23,15
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is the home of The Great American Race – the DAYTONA 500. Though the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series event garners most of the attention – as well as the largest audience in motorsports – the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe, thus earning it the title of World Center of Racing. In addition to eight major weekends of racing activity, rarely a week goes by that the Speedway grounds are not used for events that include civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.