A timely caution amid a major wreck during the finish of an overtime attempt generated a new winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as Matt DiBenedetto was awarded his first career win in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, October 1.
The 31-year-old DiBenedetto from Grass Valley, California, placed himself in prime position of contending for the win as he was running in the top five during the final lap of the first and only overtime attempt that was caused when Carson Hocevar intentionally spun to draw a caution with four laps remaining. Approaching the frontstretch and the finish line, DiBenedetto went three-wide on Playoff contender Ben Rhodes and Bret Holmes as he launched his bid for the win. Despite getting forced below the double yellow line by Rhodes as Rhodes wrecked along with a host of other competitors, DiBenedetto managed to cross the finish line sideways in the runner-up spot after being edged by Holmes. Following an extensive review of the finish, however, DiBenedetto was deemed the winner due to being out in front at the moment of caution prior to taking the checkered flag and completing the race, thus claiming his first NASCAR national touring series career victory.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, Playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek claimed his seventh pole position of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 178.767 mph in 53.567 seconds. Joining him on the front row was teammate and Playoff contender Chandler Smith, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 177.732 mph in 53.879 seconds.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Nemechek jumped ahead with an early advantage as the field stacked up in two tight-packed lanes through the first two turns. Through the backstretch, Nemechek retained the lead ahead of teammate Chandler Smith while Zane Smith started to challenge on the outside lane. Despite Zane Smith gaining a run through the frontstretch, Nemechek moved up to block him as he went on to lead the first lap.
A lap later, a side-by-side battle for the lead between Zane Smith and Nemechek occurred while the field behind started to fan out to three lanes.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Nemechek was leading by a hair over Zane Smith followed by Ty Majeski, Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, Colby Howard, Matt Crafton, Corey Heim, Jordan Anderson and Christian Eckes.
By Lap 10 and with the field settling into two tight-packed lanes within the draft, Nemechek continued to lead ahead of Zane Smith, Hocevar and Crafton while Chandler Smith and Jordan Anderson battled for fifth. By then, half of the remaining eight Playoff contenders were running in the top 10 with Eckes in eighth. Behind, Ben Rhodes was in 12th, Stewart Friesen was in 17th, Grant Enfinger was back in 23rd and Ty Majeski settled in 27th.
Then with two laps remaining in the first stage, the first caution of the event flew when the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado RST piloted by Anderson, which was running in fifth place, went up in smoke and flames at full speed. With the truck up in flames, Anderson, who was trying to keep his truck below the apron with reduced speed, managed to avoid contact with the field as he then steered his flaming truck towards the inside wall in Turn 2 before escaping it. He would then be airlifted to a local hospital to be further evaluated with burns.
The caution for Anderson was enough for the first stage to conclude on Lap 20 as Nemechek secured his seventh stage victory of the 2022 season. Zane Smith settled in second followed by Hocevar, Chandler Smith, Tanner Gray, Colby Howard, Rhodes, Heim, Tyler Ankrum and Eckes. Meanwhile, Playoff contenders Friesen, Enfinger and Majeski were scored in the top 20.
Under the stage break, the leaders led by Nemechek pitted, most for fuel, as Chandler Smith exited first followed by teammate Nemechek, Friesen, Rhodes, Heim and Eckes.
The second stage started on Lap 26 and at the start, Chandler Smith and Rhodes dueled for the lead in front of Nemechek as the field stacked up entering Turn 2. Then as Rhodes gained another strong run on the outside lane to overtake Chandler Smith for the lead, the caution returned when Colby Howard spun in the middle of the pack and towards the backstretch after cutting a left-rear tire.
When the race restarted on Lap 31, a tight side-by-side battle for the lead ignited between Rhodes and Chandler Smith through the first two turns before Nemechek gave teammate Chandler Smith a small draft to lead through the backstretch. Rhodes, however, fought back on the outside lane with drafting help from teammate Eckes as the field battled in a tight side-by-side pack.
During the following lap, the caution flew when Lawless Alan blew a right-front tire and went dead straight into the outside wall in Turn 3. With debris flying out of Alan’s wrecked truck, Bryan Dauzat and Hocevar also received damage. This caution provided mixed strategy amongst the field as some pitted while others remained on the track.
With two laps remaining in the second stage, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Rhodes and Chandler Smith dueled for the lead in front of the pack and they remained dead even for the lead when they returned to the frontstretch and started the final lap of the second stage.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 40, Chandler Smith received a draft from teammate Nemechek to surge ahead of Rhodes and capture his sixth stage victory of the 2022 season. Teammate Nemechek settled in second while Friesen, Rhodes, Enfinger, Eckes, Ankrum, Heim, Zane Smith and Majeski were scored in the top 10. By then, all of the eight Playoff contenders cracked the top 10 and had scored at least one stage point.
Following the second stage’s conclusion, Zane Smith nursed his No. 38 Love’s Travel Stop Ford F-150 into his pit stall after he cut a right-rear tire and damaged the right-rear fender of his truck. Once pit road became accessible for the field, some led by Nemechek pitted, mainly for fuel, while names like Chase Purdy, Bret Holmes, Johnny Sauter, Matt DiBenedtto, Hailie Deegan and Clay Greenfield remained on the track. Prior to the restart, names like Nemechek and Chandler Smith pitted again to top off on fuel and for damage repair.
With 49 laps remaining, the final stage started as Chase Purdy and Bret Holmes occupied the front row. At the start, Holmes cleared the field and assumed the lead on the outside lane followed by Matt DiBenedetto as the field started to fan out to three lanes through the backstretch.
At the halfway mark on Lap 47, Holmes was leading ahead of DiBenedetto, Purdy, Johnny Sauter and Derek Kraus while Jack Wood, Enfinger, Eckes, Blaine Perkins and Carson Hocevar were scored in the top 10. By then, Eckes was the lone Playoff contender running in the top 10 while the remaining seven were mired inside the top 30.
With less than 40 laps remaining, Eckes made his way to the top of the field followed by Holmes, Hocevar, DiBenedetto and Sauter while Ryan Preece, Kraus, Purdy, Wood and Enfinger were in the top 10. With two of eight Playoff contenders running in the top 10, Rhodes and Majeski were in the top 20 while Friesen, Nemechek, Chandler Smith and Zane Smith were mired back from 25th to 28th, respectively.
Then nearing the final 30 laps of the event and with most of the front-runners veering to pit road for service under green, the caution flew when Hailie Deegan, who entered pit road too fast, hit her tire carrier and caused a tire to roll out of her pit box and onto the infield grass, which prompted the tire carrier to bolt to the infield grass and retrieve the tire. Following the pit stops, additional names like Friesen, Sauter and Purdy were penalized for speeding on pit road.
Down to the final 26 laps of the event, the race proceeded under green as Eckes and Hocevar occupied the front row. At the start, Hocevar was drafted into the lead followed by Enfinger before Eckes fought back on the outside lane through the backstretch. Soon after, Eckes and Hocevar engaged in a tight side-by-side battle for the lead in front of the pack running tight through two drafting lanes.
Five laps later, the caution returned when Colby Howard spun in front of Nemechek in Turn 4, though he managed to straighten his truck and not sustain any significant damage nor collect others.
With 18 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Eckes received a push from teammate Rhodes on the outside lane to remain as the leader by a mere margin before Hocevar fought back on the inside lane with drafting help from Preece.
Three laps later, the caution flew when Playoff contender Grant Enfinger, who was starting to fall off the pace in Turn 3, was bumped by Austin Wayne Self as both slipped sideways and pounded the outside wall. In the process, Sauter and Tanner Gray were collected as all four sustained significant damage to their respective trucks.
During the following restart with 10 laps remaining, Hocevar received drafting help from Preece to lead the inside lane while teammates Eckes and Rhodes fought back on the outside lane. As the field returned to the frontstretch, the front-runners were mired in a tight pack between two lanes as Eckes and Hocevar remained dead even for the lead.
Then with five laps remaining of the event, Hocevar, who was battling Eckes for the lead, dropped his truck below the apron and was falling off the pace after cutting a tire. Then with the race remaining under green while the lead pack zipped by, Hocevar remained on the track below the apron and looped his truck around past the start/finish line. This prompted NASCAR to draw the caution as Eckes was ahead followed by teammate Rhodes, DiBenedetto, Bret Holmes and Preece. In addition, NASCAR issued a one-lap penalty to Hocevar for intentionally causing a caution as the field was sent into overtime.
During the start of overtime, teammates Eckes and Rhodes battled for the lead through the first two turns. Then through the second turn and the backstretch, Rhodes received drafting help from Holmes to briefly pull away with the lead before the rest of the front-runners caught up to them through Turns 3 and 4. By then, Holmes navigated his way into the lead as DiBenedetto and Rhodes dueled for the lead.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Holmes was leading ahead of Rhodes, DiBenedetto, Eckes and Preece. Through the backstretch, Rhodes was drafted into the lead by Eckes before both ThorSport Racing teammates dueled for the lead in front of the pack.
Then entering Turn 4, Rhodes started to pull ahead of Eckes when Heim got bumped as he wrecked his No. 51 JBL Toyota Tundra TRD Pro into the outside wall. With Heim coming back across the track and collecting more competitors, Holmes and DiBenedetto went three-wide on Rhodes approaching the start/finish line. While Holmes remained on the outside lane, DiBenedetto made contact with Rhodes as he was shoved below the double yellow line. The contact got Rhodes sideways as nearly the entire field wrecked while crossing the finish line. Back at the front, however, Holmes edged DiBenedetto by 0.002 seconds to score what appeared to have been his first NASCAR national touring series career victory.
Following an extensive review of the final lap incident, the battle for the win and who was out in front at the moment of caution, NASCAR determined that the caution was displayed before Holmes crossed the finish line to complete the race and that DiBenedetto was out in front when the caution was displayed, thus being declared the official winner.
With the victory, DiBenedetto, who has made 248 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, achieved his first career victory in his 338th career start across NASCAR’s top three national touring series and in his 21st career start in the Camping World Truck Series. The victory was also the first for Rackley-W.A.R. Racing, a team that debuted in 2021.
DiBenedetto’s victory marks the seventh consecutive season where the Truck Series Playoff event has been won by a non-Playoff contender with the streak spanning to the series’ Playoff inception in 2016. He also became the sixth different competitor to record a first Truck career victory at Talladega.
“Oh man, it’s such a long time coming!” DiBenedetto said on FS1. “Praise God. I’m so thankful. [My fans] have bared with me through so much in me being a reckless human being sometimes just through life. This one’s life-changing. I’m out of breath. I think I was more nervous waiting and hearing what would happen. My spotter, Doug Campbell, is awesome. We worked together so good. I think in the Cup Series, we led on like the white flag twice here or something at Talladega. So, I owe a lot to him. At the end there, we were just really committed to staying on the bottom [lane] and pushing. This [truck], it pushed well, so I was just committed to staying there and pushing whoever was in front of me. I’m so thankful. So thankful! This is amazing. This team deserves it.”
Once the final finishing order was displayed, Rhodes was awarded the runner-up spot despite ending up with a wrecked truck while Holmes was shuffled back to a career-best third place.
“It’s tough to lose something that close,” Holmes said. “We lost an ARCA race that close, I don’t know, probably lost it closer today. I want to win here so bad, I can’t stand it. I have so many people here from my hometown, friends, and family. Growing up and racing at the dirt track across the road, it just would mean the world for me to win here. It seems like the last couple years in ARCA we’ve been right there, the Truck races we’ve been right there. It’s just super tough, hate we couldn’t pull it off for everybody. Wish the race ended at the finish line because I feel like we would’ve had it…It’s tough to lose that one, for sure.”
Preece ended up fourth while Eckes completed the top five. Deegan notched a career-best sixth place despite being involved in the final lap accident while Purdy, Colby Howard, Parker Kligerman and Tyler Ankrum completed the top 10 on the track.
Notably, Playoff contenders Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Friesen, Majeski, Nemechek and Enfinger finished 14th, 17th, 20th, 23rd, 24th and 29th, respectively.
There were 25 lead changes for 11 different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 36 laps.
1. Matt DiBenedetto, one lap led
2. Ben Rhodes, two laps led
3. Bret Holmes, six laps led
4. Ryan Preece
5. Christian Eckes, 25 laps led
6. Hailie Deegan
7. Chase Purdy, six laps led
8. Colby Howard
9. Parker Kligerman
10. Tyler Ankrum
11. Kaden Honeycutt
12. Clay Greenfield
13. Derek Kraus, three laps led
14. Chandler Smith, 17 laps led, Stage 2 winner
15. Timmy Hill
16. Parker Retzlaff
17. Zane Smith, one lap led
18. Kaz Grala
19. Jack Wood
20. Stewart Friesen
21. Bayley Currey
22. Matt Crafton, one lap led
23. Ty Majeski, one lap led
24. John Hunter Nemechek, 20 laps led, Stage 1 winner
25. Johnny Sauter
26. Corey Heim – OUT, Accident
27. Blaine Perkins – OUT, Accident
28. Carson Hocevar, one lap down, 12 laps led
29. Grant Enfinger, one lap down
30. Austin Wayne Self – OUT, Accident
31. Tanner Gray – OUT, Accident
32. Jennifer Jo Cobb – OUT, Clutch
33. Lawless Alan – OUT, Accident
34. Dean Thompson – OUT, Accident
35. Bryan Dauzat – OUT, Dvp
36. Jordan Anderson – OUT, Accident
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. Ty Majeski – Advanced
2. Chandler Smith +30
3. Zane Smith +18
4. Ben Rhodes +3
5. Christian Eckes -3
6. Stewart Friesen -3
7. John Hunter Nemechek -5
8. Grant Enfinger -29
With the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season nearing its conclusion, the Playoff’s Round of 8 will next continue at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 22, where the Championship Round field will be set. The event’s coverage is scheduled to commence at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.