Phoenix Raceway was the site of the Championship 4 race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the second straight year. John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton, and Ben Rhodes each had a shot at the title. Three of them were looking for their first Truck Series title.
Out of those four, Ben Rhodes was able to capture the Truck Series championship for the first time in his career in only 141 starts. The Kentucky native made the winning move by passing Zane Smith with eight laps to go and never looked back to claim the 2021 Truck Series championship.
“I wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t for Duke and Rhonda (Thorson, ThorSport team owners),” Rhodes said. “They gave me my opportunity in this sport. They were my very first full-time national team that I raced for and I’ve been with them ever since. They’re so amazing and I can’t even begin to thank them enough. This has just been a ride of a lifetime. I hope it’s not over. I want to keep going now. This is amazing.”
While there was a Championship 4 race out on the track, there was also a race winner to be decided as well. Chandler Smith qualified on the pole with qualifying back for the first time this year. Stages of 45/45/60 laps made up the 150 lap event.
One of the Championship 4 contenders, Nemechek, got in the wall early on Lap 1. As a result of the contact with the wall, his left-front tire went down and he lost two laps in the process after bringing the truck to pit road. The first yellow flew shortly thereafter on Lap 11 for the No. 45 of Lawless Alan who crashed on the frontstretch. The caution allowed Nemechek to gain one of his laps back.
Despite Smith starting on the pole, the Georgia native lost the lead to the No. 2 of Sheldon Creed but was able to grab the lead back with 10 laps left in the stage and collect the first stage win. Rhodes finished fifth, Crafton seventh, Zane Smith ninth and Nemechek was 30th, 1 lap down.
During Stage 2, there were no cautions and it was a relatively calm stage. There was one newsworthy item though as Sheldon Creed clinched the most laps led of the season on Lap 80 and won the $50,000 bonus from Marcus Lemonis of Camping World. Even though Creed dominated the stage, the California native was passed again for the stage win, this time on the last lap of the stage when Smith made the move on the start/finish line. Rhodes was third, Zane Smith sixth, Crafton eighth and Nemechek finished 27th, still one lap down.
The final stage began with 51 laps to go but didn’t stay green for long. The fourth and final yellow flag flew on Lap 102 for the No. 12 of Tate Fogleman who stalled on the track. The caution allowed Nemechek to regain his lap and get back in contention for the title.
Following the restart with 45 to go, Zane Smith passed Rhodes for third and became the highest-ranked Championship 4 driver. As for Nemechek, the North Carolina native continued his rally up toward the front and got as high as ninth with 10 laps to go. Nemechek’s run stalled out to seventh and Zane Smith looked comfortable in fourth. Unfortunately for Smith, he was passed by Rhodes with eight to go and fell to runner-up in the Championship 4. Rhodes, however, ended the season with the championship title after opening the season up with two victories at Daytona.
Chandler Smith passed Creed for the lead and the eventual race win with 17 laps to go for his second win of the 2021 season. The Georgia native also won the Rookie of the Year title as well.
“Overall, we unloaded today and got out on the track really good,” Chandler Smith said about the win. “Our Safelite Toyota Tundra topped off P2 right off the bat and was really comfortable, but was here in 2019, kind of thought the same thing and had a little experience under my belt and good news to base off of.”
“We didn’t get a mock run in and I told my crew chief Danny Stockman how many numbers freer we needed to be from the end of practice to qualifying. We were solid in qualifying and that gave us a good adjustment to where we needed to be tonight.”
Zane Smith finished fifth and fell short once again for the second consecutive year.
“It’s been a wild of a year,” Zane Smith said. “I don’t know which one hurt more, last year or this one. We fired off good, honestly too good, and just got way too tight. We tried everything from inside the truck and all the tools I had and didn’t really help. Couldn’t hold them off.”
There were four cautions for 25 laps and 12 lead changes among three different leaders. Smith led six times for 39 laps en route to victory.
Championship 4 Results:
(3rd) Ben Rhodes, 2021 Truck Series Champion
(5th) Zane Smith
(7th) John Hunter Nemechek
(12th) Matt Crafton
Stage 1: Chandler Smith, Creed, Gilliland, Friesen, Rhodes, Hocevar, Crafton, Eckes, Zane Smith, Kraus
Stage 2: C. Smith, Creed, Rhodes, Friesen, Gilliland, Z. Smith, Hocevar, Crafton, Enfinger, Eckes
Official Race Results of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway:
- Chandler Smith, won both stages, led 39 laps
- Stewart Friesen, led five laps
- Ben Rhodes
- Sheldon Creed, led 106 laps
- Zane Smith
- Christian Eckes
- John Hunter Nemechek
- Todd Gilliland
- Carson Hocevar
- Austin Hill
- Johnny Sauter
- Matt Crafton
- Grant Enfinger
- Tyler Ankrum
- Derek Kraus
- Chase Purdy
- Hailie Deegan
- Drew Dollar
- Ryan Truex
- Jack Wood
- Dean Thompson, 1 lap down
- Will Rodgers, 1 lap down
- Jordan Anderson, 1 lap down
- Willie Allen, 1 lap down
- Ty Dillon, 1 lap down
- Austin Wayne Self, 3 laps down
- Chris Hacker, 3 laps down
- Danny Bohn, 3 laps down
- Taylor Gray, 4 laps down
- Cory Roper, 4 laps down
- Spencer Boyd, 4 laps down
- Kris Wright, 7 laps down
- Tyler Hill, OUT, Alternator
- Tate Fogleman, OUT, Electrical
- Tanner Gray, OUT, Rear Gear
- Lawless Alan, OUT, Crash
Up Next: With the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season now complete, teams will start prepping for the 2022 season that begins February 18, 2022, at Daytona International Speedway. It will air live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio at 7:30 p.m.