The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returned to action to kickstart the 2021 season at the famous Daytona International Speedway.
Ben Rhodes, who started 23rd, made a thrilling move to the outside of Cory Roper coming off Turn 4 and claimed the season-opening win at Daytona as multiple trucks wrecked behind the leaders. The victory would mark the Kentucky native’s first superspeedway victory in 120 starts.
“This is so special, the biggest win of my career,” Rhodes said. “I can’t even believe this. As a driver, you’re always asked about what your biggest accomplishment is. This is it. This is hands-down it. This is the place to be. I can’t even believe it.”
Prior to the first race of the season, qualifying was held earlier today. Johnny Sauter and the No. 13 ThorSport team qualified on the pole. The pole marked Sauter’s first superspeedway pole position in his career.
Only one driver moved to the back, which was the No. 19 of Derek Kraus. Stages of 20/20/60 laps made up the original 100 lap event, before going into overtime, as a caution flew with six laps to go and extended the event by one lap.
Stage 1: Lap 1 – Lap 20
When the green flag flew, there were already sparks flying on the frontstretch. The No. 15 of Tanner Gray did not get going as the truck stalled somewhat on the initial start, which caused a stack up in the back. James Buescher in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevy had major damage to his front bumper and was credited with a last-place finish. Kraus and Gus Dean were also involved in the incident.
Despite the early caution, the rest of the stage remained green from Lap 5 to 20. Pole sitter Sauter dominated through the early portions before getting passed late in the stage by eventual Stage 1 winner, Raphael Lessard. Lessard, with the help of his teammate Sheldon Creed, drove right on by Sauter and Enfinger to win the first stage. Enfinger, Sauter, Nemechek, Rhodes, Chandler Smith, David Gilliland, Stewart Friesen and Timothy Peters rounded out the Top 10 in Stage 1.
During the stage break, Creed was penalized for being too fast on pit road while Codie Rohrbaugh was sent to the rear for a crew member being over the wall too soon. Meanwhile, Matt Crafton was penalized for one lap for pitting outside the box.
Stage 2: Lap 26 – Lap 40
Just one caution slowed the second stage when the No. 19 of Kraus spun in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 35 after Kraus’s left-rear tire went flat. With the late caution, the restart came with two laps to go in the stage. John Hunter Nemechek edged out Lessard for the victory. Sauter, Creed, Rhodes, Chandler Smith, Hill, Peters, Enfinger, and Ankrum were the Top 10 finishers in Stage 2.
Stage 3: Lap 46 – Lap 101
In the final stage, there were six cautions that took place in the final 55 laps. One of the notable yellows in the final stage was for the No. 1 of Hailie Deegan. Deegan was making her first Truck Series start at Daytona and ran solidly before spinning on the backstretch and hitting the inside wall causing a yellow with 20 to go.
The next restart came with 15 to go and the intensity picked up with drivers pushing hard for the win. Unfortunately, the big one occurred with six laps to go with multiple drivers involved. John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Ankrum, Timothy Peters, Drew Dollar, Raphael Lessard, Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Tate Fogleman, Bryan Dauzat and Carson Hocevar were collected in the incident.
With the late yellow, NASCAR Overtime was called and there was a two-lap dash to the finish. Rhodes got shoved out to the front with the help of his teammate, Matt Crafton, coming off Turn 4, following directly behind Roper who was leading the race. Rhodes had momentum and made the pass to the outside to win by .036 seconds over Roper and Jordan Anderson while another big one occurred behind the leaders.
By finishing third, Roper earned the first-ever top-five finish of his Truck Series career in 28 starts over a span of four years, dating back to 2018.
“We took the white flag, and I think it (field) just kind of got jumbled up and I think the 2 (Sheldon Creed) got in the wall a little bit, put me in the wall, flattened the right side and I pulled down to the bottom,” Roper said. “I was able to clear them and come off of (Turn) 2 with the lead. So, it was pretty exciting about that time and I just calmed down and try to stay, listen to my spotter, do what I needed to do. When I pancaked the right side, we got tight off of (Turn) 4 and I couldn’t pull down and got clogged in.”
There were 10 cautions for 43 laps and 31 lead changes among 12 different leaders.
- Ben Rhodes, led seven laps
- Jordan Anderson
- Cory Roper
- Ryan Truex
- Carson Hocevar
- Sheldon Creed, led one lap
- John Hunter Nemechek, won Stage 2, led 14 laps
- Codie Rohrbaugh
- Chandler Smith, led 22 laps
- Drew Dollar
- Grant Enfinger, led 13 laps
- Kris Wright
- Spencer Boyd
- David Gilliland, led eight laps
- Matt Crafton
- Zane Smith
- Danny Bohn
- Jennifer Jo Cobb
- Bryan Dauzat, led two laps
- Jason White
- Austin Wayne Self, one lap down
- Austin Hill, two laps down
- Raphael Lessard, won Stage 1, led 12 laps, two laps down
- Hailie Deegan, three laps down
- Brett Moffitt, led one lap, five laps down
- Timothy Peters, led three laps, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Johnny Sauter, led 12 laps, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Tyler Ankrum, led six laps, OUT, Crash
- Chase Purdy, OUT, Electrical
- Tate Fogleman, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Todd Gilliland, OUT, Crash
- Stewart Friesen, OUT, Crash
- Derek Kraus, OUT, Damage Vehicle Policy
- Gus Dean, OUT, Crash
- Tanner Gray, OUT, Drivetrain
- James Buescher, OUT, Crash
Up Next: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will stay in the Daytona area as the trucks will next race on the Daytona Road Course on Friday night. February 19. live on FOX Sports 1 and MRN Radio at 7:30 pm. ET.