Rhodes earns dominant Truck victory at Bristol Dirt Course

A year after finishing in the runner-up spot during the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course, Ben Rhodes was not going to be denied. On Saturday night, April 16, during Easter weekend, Rhodes rose to the occasion and persevered over a five-lap shootout against Carson Hocevar to win the Pinty’s Truck Race on Bristol’s dirt course.

The reigning Truck Series champion from Louisville, Kentucky, led a race-high 95 of 150-scheduled laps and captured both stages before losing the lead and having to methodically carve his way to the front throughout the final stage. Then during a restart with five laps remaining, Rhodes was able to utilize the outside lane and his fast truck to his advantage as he rocketed to the lead and muscled away from Hocevar and John Hunter Nemechek for the remainder of the event to capture his first victory of the 2022 season as he pursues his quest to defend his series championship.

The starting lineup for the main event was determined through four 15-lap heat events on Saturday, where the competitors accumulate points for their finishing results and passing by improving from their original starting spots. 

By winning the third heat event and earning a total of 15 points, 10 for winning the heat event and five for improving from his sixth-place starting spot, Joey Logano started on pole position for the main event. Joining him on the front row was Ben Rhodes, who finished in the runner-up spot behind Logano but earned 14 points, nine for finishing second and five for improving from his seventh-place starting spot.

Jessica Friesen, wife of driver Stewart Friesen, and veteran Norm Benning were the two competitors who failed to qualify for the main event.

Prior to the event, Hailie Deegan dropped to the rear of the field due to starting the event in a backup truck along with Andrew Gordon, who received unapproved adjustments to his truck.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Rhodes launched his No. 99 Tenda Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to an early challenge for the lead beneath Logano’s No. 54 Planet Fitness Ford F-150 through the first two turns. Rhodes would then prevail entering the third turn and come back around to lead the first lap.

Behind Rhodes and Logano, Stewart Friesen was in third place ahead of Chandler Smith, who had Parker Kligerman and Carson Hocevar engaged in a side-by-side battle for a spot in the top five. 

By the fifth lap, Rhodes stretched his advantage to half a second over Logano. Friesen and Chandler Smith retained their respective spots of third and fourth while Chase Elliott, who was piloting the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado RST for Spire Motorsports, was up in the top five.

Through the first 20 laps of the event, Rhodes was leading by more than a second over Logano followed by Friesen, Elliott and Ty Majeski while Kligerman, Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, Matt DiBenedetto and Colby Howard were in the top 10. Matt Crafton was in 11th ahead of Austin Wayne Self, Grant Enfinger, John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Dillon while Christian Eckes, Derek Kraus, Zane Smith, Tate Fogleman and rookie Jack Wood were in the top 20. Tyler Ankrum was in 21st ahead of Buddy Kofoid, Kaz Grala, Harrison Burton and Andrew Gordon while Hailie Deegan was mired inside the top 30.

Four laps later, the first caution of the event flew when Andrew Gordon spun in Turn 4.

When the race restarted on Lap 31, Rhodes retained the lead following a strong start while Majeski overtook Logano for the runner-up spot. Soon after, Majeski challenged teammate Rhodes for the lead, but the latter prevailed as Stewart Friesen, who also passed Logano, joined the battle.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 40, Rhodes, who led all the laps in the first stage, captured his fourth stage victory of the season. Teammate Majeski settled in second followed by Friesen, Logano, Chandler Smith, Kligerman, Elliott, Crafton, Carson Hocevar and Matt DiBenedetto.

Under the stage break, names like Rhodes, Majeski and Austin Wayne Self remained on the track while the rest led by Friesen pitted. It was soon revealed that Rhodes, who did not pit, meant to, though he retained the lead.

The second stage started on Lap 41 as teammates Rhodes and Majeski occupied the front row. At the start, Rhodes rocketed with another strong start to retain the lead ahead of teammate Majeski and Austin Wayne Self while Friesen and Logano battled for fourth place ahead of a pack of competitors that included Kligerman, Chandler Smith, Elliott, Nemechek and Crafton. 

At the Lap 50 mark, Rhodes was leading by less than four-tenths of a second over teammate Majeski while Self, Logano and Kligerman were in the top five. Elliott was in sixth ahead of Chandler Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Friesen and Hocevar while Buddy Kofoid was in 11th ahead of Crafton, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger and Zane Smith.

Five laps later, the caution returned when Dean Thompson spun and backed his No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado RST against the outside wall between Turns 2 and 3. In the midst of the incident, Blaine Perkins got turned below the apron, though he continued without sustaining any significant damage.

By Lap 61, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Rhodes retained the lead on the outside lane while Majeski fended off Logano for the runner-up spot. Meanwhile, Nemechek challenged Self for fourth place.

At the halfway mark on Lap 75, a battle for the lead ignited between teammates Rhodes and Majeski as Majeski launched repeated attacks on Rhodes for the top spot. Meanwhile, Logano trailed by more than two seconds in third place while Nemechek and Kligerman were in the top five. Elliott was in sixth ahead of Self, Hocevar, Buddy Kofoid and Chandler Smith while Derek Kraus, Eckes, Zane Smith, Friesen and Austin Dillon were in the top 15. By then, Crafton, Enfinger and DiBenedetto were mired in the top 10 while Hailie Deegan was in 26th behind Harrison Burton.

Ten laps later, Rhodes continued to lead ahead of teammate Majeski while Nemechek muscled his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to third place ahead of Logano and Kligerman, though Nemechek and Logano bumped against one another in Turn 3. With Elliott in sixth, Kofoid was up in seventh place ahead of Hocevar.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Rhodes, who swept both stages of the event, captured his fifth stage victory of the season. Teammate Majeski settled in second followed by Nemechek, Kligerman, Logano, Elliott, Kofoid, Hocevar, Chandler Smith and Derek Kraus.

Under the stage break, names like Nemechek, Kligerman, Kofoid, Hocevar, Chandler Smith, Enfinger, Eckes, Zane Smith, Tate Fogleman, Mike Marlar, Chase Purdy and Deegan remained on the track while the rest led by Rhodes pitted.

With 58 laps remaining, the final stage started under green. At the start, Nemechek retained the lead through the first two turns until Hocevar launched his No. 42 Premier Security Solutions Chevrolet Silverado RST into the lead approaching Turn 4. Despite being pressured by Nemechek, Hocevar retained the lead while Kligerman, Enfinger and Kofoid were in the top five. Meanwhile, Chandler Smith, Elliott and Majeski were in the top 10 while Rhodes and Logano were mired in the top 15.

Four laps later, the caution flew when Self got the front nose of his No. 22 AM Chevrolet Silverado RST dead-locked and stuck to the rear bumper of DiBenedetto’s No. 25 TW Frierson Chevrolet Silverado RST entering Turn 4. With both competitors trying to shake one another off of each other, they eventually came to a stop in Turn 2 while still stuck to one another. The incident was enough for NASCAR to pause the event to allow the safety crew to separate the competitors.

Following a delay of nearly six minutes as the red flag was lifted, the race restarted under green with 45 laps remaining. At the start, Hocevar retained the lead ahead of Nemechek, who was soon overtaken by Enfinger.

Five laps later, Hocevar was leading by more than half a second over Nemechek while Kligerman, Enfinger and Kofoid were in the top five. Meanwhile, Rhodes, who was in the top 10, was trying to march his way back into the top five.

A few laps later, the caution flew due to a single-truck incident between Turns 2 and 3 that involved Keith McGee.

Down to the final 32 laps of the event, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Hocevar prevailed on the outside lane to retain the lead while Nemechek tried to launch another attack on Hocevar for the lead. Behind, Buddy Kofoid muscled his way into third place ahead of Kligerman, Enfinger and Rhodes.

Six laps later, the caution returned when Chandler Smith spun his No. 18 Charge Me Toyota Tundra TRD Pro after being bumped by Eckes through Turns 2 and 3. The contact caused Smith’s truck to spin in a looped circle and he spun it again while trying to straighten his truck, though he was dodged by the field.

Another seven laps later, the race restarted under green. At the start, Hocevar retained the lead following another strong start while Nemechek fended off Kligerman to remain in second place. Behind, Majeski and Kofoid battled for fourth place while Rhodes was in sixth.

With 15 laps remaining, Rhodes muscled his way into the top five as he went to pursue Kofoid for fourth place. Meanwhile, Hocevar retained a narrow advantage over Nemechek. 

Then with 11 laps remaining, the caution flew when Rhodes, who was battling Kofoid for fourth place, pulled a slide job on Kofoid through Turns 1 and 2, which caused Kofoid to step out of the gas and spin his No. 51 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Behind, Majeski also spun as both competitors came to a sliding halt on the bottom lane. Both competitors, however, were unable to escape damage as Kraus, who was unable to slow his truck below the apron, collided with them. The incident spoiled Kofoid and Majeski’s run towards the front.

Down to the final five laps of the event, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Hocevar retained the lead while Rhodes used the outside lane to rocket past Nemechek and Kligerman for the runner-up spot. Just as the field returned to the start/finish line, Rhodes challenged and quickly overtook Hocevar for the lead. Hocevar then tried to mount a challenge beneath Rhodes in Turn 3, but the latter remained on the outside lane to muscle away with the lead.

With two laps remaining, Rhodes was leading by less than four-tenths of a second over Hocevar while Nemechek retained third ahead of Kligerman, Eckes and Elliott.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Rhodes was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Hocevar while third-place Nemechek trailed by more than a second. Having no challengers put the pressure to him for a final lap, Rhodes was able to pull away, slide back around to the frontstretch and claim the victory by more than eight-tenths of a second over Hocevar.

In addition to claiming his first victory of the season, first at Bristol and first on dirt, Rhodes claimed his sixth career win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in his 147th series start. The victory was enough for Rhodes to add 34 points to his lead in the regular season standings as he became the third series regular to be guaranteed a spot in this year’s Truck Playoffs.

Photo by Christian Gardner for SpeedwayMedia.com.

“I thought we gave it away for a moment,” Rhodes, who led a race-high 95 of 150 laps, said on FS1. “Michael Waltrip asked me on the radio, ‘Did you mean to stay out [after the first stage]?’ The real answer was no. Driving back through the pack like that was really, really tough. Not something we wanted to do. My crew gave me such an awesome Tenda Toyota Tundra this weekend. I wasn’t gonna let them down. I had to go back up there and earn the spot back. Really, really proud of all their effort. It looked like I had really fast teammates today, too. Thanks, everybody, for coming out. Happy Easter!” 

Hocevar, who led 55 laps, notched the second runner-up result of his career while Nemechek notched his third consecutive top-five result in recent weeks by finishing in third place.

“[I could have] Either ripped the top or crashed [Rhodes],” Hocevar said. “I hate saying that, but that’s part of this racing, right? I just really couldn’t compete with him. He just had better tires. He was the fastest truck all day, so I was just trying really hard and hoping I could hold off. I kept looking up in the mirror. I was like, ‘Man, he’s fifth. He can’t really go anywhere.’ Once I knew he was in fourth, I was like, “Oh, I’m in trouble here.’ He slide-jobbed me and I should’ve prepared for it. crossed him over and then, raced him really hard. Second just sucks. It does. It’s terrible, especially being that close…Just close, but [the late Bryan Clauson] was definitely with me tonight, running that thing as hard as we were” 

“Just didn’t quite have it tonight,” Nemechek said. “We struggled with some forward drive, just couldn’t get it off the corner kind of like [Rhodes] could. He was definitely the dominant truck tonight. Congrats to those guys. Thank you to everyone at [Kyle Busch Motorsports]. After the first string of races, I feel like we’re kind of on a roll here with top fives.”

Kligerman brought the No. 75 Henderson Motorsports entry to a fourth-place result while Eckes recorded his second top-five result of the season by finishing fifth. Logano, Elliott, Enfinger, Crafton and Zane Smith finished in the top 10.

Notably, Friesen finished 11th, Austin Dillon came home in 14th and Deegan settled in 18th ahead of Chandler Smith and Harrison Burton. Majeski fell back to 21st while Buddy Kofoid ended up in 27th place behind Kaz Grala.

There were three lead changes for two different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 43 laps. All 36 starters finished the event, with 27 finishing on the lead lap.

With his first victory of the season, Ben Rhodes continues to lead the regular-season standings by 38 points over Chandler Smith, 51 over Stewart Friesen, 54 over Zane Smith and 62 over John Hunter Nemechek.

Results.

1. Ben Rhodes, 95 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

2. Carson Hocevar, 55 laps led

3. John Hunter Nemechek

4. Parker Kligerman

5. Christian Eckes

6. Joey Logano

7. Chase Elliott

8. Grant Enfinger

9. Matt Crafton

10. Zane Smith

11. Stewart Friesen

12. Colby Howard

13. Chase Purdy

14. Austin Dillon

15. Tanner Gray

16. Dean Thompson

17. Mike Marlar

18. Hailie Deegan

19. Chandler Smith

20. Harrison Burton

21. Ty Majeski

22. Jack Wood

23. Timmy Hill

24. Spencer Boyd

25. Blaine Perkins

26. Kaz Grala

27. Buddy Kofoid

28. Tate Fogleman, one lap down

29. Derek Kraus, one lap down

30. Lawless Alan, one lap down

31. Tyler Ankrum, three laps down

32. Andrew Gordon, four laps down

33. Kris Wright, four laps down

34. Keith McGee, four laps down

35. Matt DiBenedetto, five laps down

36. Austin Wayne Self, seven laps down

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is the series’ first of two visits of this season at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina. The event is scheduled to occur on May 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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