Ben Rhodes and the No. 99 ThorSport Racing team broke through at Darlington Raceway on Sunday afternoon after taking advantage of an overtime restart with two laps to go. Rhodes lined up alongside rookie Derek Kraus, who was the control truck coming to the restart line. However, Kraus got loose off Turn 2 and couldn’t block Rhodes due to the looseness of the No. 19 Truck. From there, the Kentucky native used the high side and held on to snap a two-year winless drought dating back to 2018 at Kentucky.
“Gosh, that was such a tough win,” Rhodes said. “We weren’t the best truck all day. I was actually really disappointed when the [final] caution flag came out because I thought fourth place is a good finish for us, we’ll get in the Playoffs.
“But I’m not letting this checkered flag go,” he said grinning at the turn of events. “It’s been a long time coming.”
For the first time in nine years, the Truck Series returned to the famed Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. Most of the drivers have never raced at the track “Too Tough To Tame” with the exception of veterans Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. Additionally, Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan returned to the Truck Series as well and were among the few who had experience by racing in the Cup or Xfinity Series. Stages 45-45-57 made up the 147-lap event.
Stage 1: Lap 1 – Lap 45
The caution flew early on Lap 6 when the No. 33 of Bryant Barnhill slammed the Turn 3 wall and came to a stop. Unfortunately for Barnhill, he would be credited with a last-place finish.
A few other notable incidents occurred in the early laps of Stage 1, especially for 2016 Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter. He had smoke coming out of the back end of his truck but he was able to keep on going well past the Lap 20 competition caution that was scheduled for Lap 15.
After the competition caution, 21 laps of green-flag racing ensued and GMS Racing was once again back out front to continue their recent dominance of the Truck Series. However, just five laps before the stage ended, returning competitor Trevor Bayne had suspension issues on his No. 40 Niece Motorsports entry. The handling of the truck continued to get worse throughout the day and he was never able to rebound.
When the green-checkers flew on Lap 45 for the completion of Stage 1, it was all Brett Moffitt in his Bobby Allison inspired throwback scheme who claimed the stage victory. Austin Hill, Sheldon Creed, Rhodes, Ragan, Crafton, Tyler Ankrum, Raphael Lessard, Christian Eckes, and Zane Smith rounded out the top 10. By winning the stage, Moffitt was able to clinch a playoff spot ahead of the final race of the regular season at Richmond.
Stage 2: Lap 50 – Lap 90
Only one minor incident occurred during the second stage when the No. 41 of Dawson Cram bounced off the backstretch wall, causing damage to the right-side of his Chevrolet.
Miraculously, no yellows were seen for Stage 2, which saw a 40-lap green-flag run with Sheldon Creed collecting the stage win. Moffitt, Austin Hill, Rhodes, Ragan, Lessard, Ankrum, Crafton, Gilliland, and Zane Smith completed the top 10 stage finishers.
Stage 3: Lap 97 – Lap 152 (Overtime Finish)
The third and final stage saw numerous cautions on the final run to the checkered flag. In fact, there were three cautions that occurred when the laps began to wind down.
The fifth yellow was flown on Lap 124 after Tyler Ankrum went spinning sideways through Turn(s) 1 and 2 immediately after he made contact with his teammate Zane Smith. Fortunately for Ankrum, he saved his truck from further contact, but Smith received minimal damage to the No. 21 machine.
Bad luck continued for rookie Smith as he was involved in the sixth caution when the No. 15 of Tanner Gray made contact with him in Turn 1.
Despite the two cautions slowing down the action, there was a 16-lap run from Laps 130 – 145. Before the final yellow flew, it looked as though Sheldon Creed was on pace for another dominating victory. However, a wreck on the backstretch that involved Josh Reaume, Matt Crafton, and David Ragan changed the entire complexion of the race for the front runners, Creed and Moffitt.
When the yellow flew with two laps to go, Creed and Moffitt were left with a tough choice of whether to pit. The two teams eventually made the decision to pit for fresh rubber and fuel, as their tires were worn out. Unfortunately, Creed’s day went from bad to worse, as he was caught with a penalty for too fast entering which ended any chances of him pulling off a consecutive win.
With Creed and Moffitt out of the picture, there was an overtime restart with Rhodes and Kraus making up the front row. Despite the last attempt with Kraus trying to hold Rhodes off, Rhodes eventually claimed the checkered flag for the third time of his Truck Series career with the rookie Kraus finishing runner up.
“[Crew chief] Kevin [Bellicourt] up on top of the box made a really good call at the end and I got a good restart and did everything I needed to do, and off of [Turn] two got really loose,” Kraus said about being passed by Rhodes.
“You’ve got to be aggressive to make the Top 10 and the Playoffs,” Kraus added of his door-to-door racing with Gilliland throughout the day.”
There were seven cautions for 35 laps with 11 lead changes among five different leaders.
Official Results following the South Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Darlington Raceway.
- Ben Rhodes, led four laps
- Derek Kraus, led one lap
- Austin Hill
- Grant Enfinger
- Christian Eckes
- Raphael Lessard
- Todd Gilliland
- Stewart Friesen
- Timmy Hill
- Brett Moffitt, won Stage 1, led 63 laps
- Tyler Ankrum
- Bayley Currey
- Ty Majeski
- Matt Crafton
- Tate Fogleman
- Zane Smith
- Austin Wayne Self
- Sheldon Creed, won Stage 1, led 82 laps
- Greg Biffle
- Danny Bohn
- Clay Greenfield
- David Ragan
- Chandler Smith, 1 lap down
- Jordan Anderson, 1 lap down
- Codie Rohrbaugh, 2 laps down
- Spencer Boyd, 2 laps down
- Trevor Bayne, 3 laps down
- Josh Reaume, 3 laps down
- Tanner Gray, 4 laps down
- Jennifer Jo Cobb, 5 laps down
- Johnny Sauter, OUT, Engine
- Norm Benning, OUT, Handling
- Dawson Cram, OUT, Crash
- Bryant Barnhill, OUT, Crash
Playoff Standings with 1 race to go
- Sheldon Creed (3 wins), 20 playoff points
- Zane Smith (2 wins), 14 playoff points
- Grant Enfinger (2 wins), 11 playoff points
- Austin Hill (1 win), 7 playoff points
- Ben Rhodes (1 win), 5 playoff points
- Matt Crafton (1 win), 5 playoff points
- Brett Moffitt (Clinched with virtue of Stage 1 victory), 5 playoff points
- Christian Eckes (Clinched with virtue of Darlington finish), No playoff playoff points
- Tyler Ankrum, +14 above the cut line
- Todd Gilliland, +10 above the cut line
Below the cut line
- Derek Kraus, -10
- Raphael Lessard, -66
- Tanner Gray, -93
- Stewart Friesen, -100
Any driver below the cut line will have to win in order to make the playoffs.
Up Next: The NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series will head to Richmond International Raceway for a Thursday night event on September 10th live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. The Richmond event will be the last race of the Truck Series season, before the playoffs begin at Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, September 17th.