Ben Rhodes wins caution-filled, competitive NextEra Energy 250
For Ben Rhodes, his win in Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona was not only the fourth of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) career, but it was also the biggest of his career.
Rhodes held off Jordan Anderson by 0.036 seconds to earn his first win of 2021. Rhodes, in his sixth full-time NCWTS season, is locked into the playoffs for the fourth time of his career.
“It is so hard to make the Playoffs. Our Truck Series is so dense in competition,” Rhodes stated, “I don’t think people appreciate how hard it is. Now that we’re locked in, it is such a weight off our shoulders.”
Rhodes won in his first race with new crew chief Rich Lushes and new sponsor Bombardier Jets. Rhodes now has two NCWTS wins in his last ten starts, in contrast to just two wins in his first 110 starts.
Jordan Anderson finished 2nd for the second year in a row at Daytona. Last year, Anderson finished 2nd to Rhodes’s teammate, Grant Enfinger.
“Last year, we were second coming out of turn 2. In my head, I was preparing, fighting for it. This year on the backstretch, I was 9th… the biggest thing on the last lap was surviving.”
When the field took the white flag, Anderson was running tenth and gained eight positions. Anderson remarked, “That was a pure Moses moment we had coming from 11th or 12th on the white flag.”
Cory Roper finished third in his best-career NCWTS finish. Roper’s previous best-career finish was a ninth-place finish at Texas in June 2019. Roper, an owner-driver, noted that the third-place finish has a financial impact on the team.
“We wanna bring good equipment, give ourselves the best shot. Any time you can finish good, better your equipment, it’s huge in racing like this,” Roper said. “We’ve got great, great partners. We’ve got a lot of great things in the works in the B2B area.”
2021 is Cory Roper’s first full-time NCWTS season.
The Top 10 finishers were as follows: Ben Rhodes, Jordan Anderson, Cory Roper, Ryan Truex, Carson Hocevar (best-career finish), Sheldon Creed, John Hunter Nemechek, Codie Rohrbaugh, Chandler Smith, Drew Dollar (best-career finish).
Defending race winner Grant Enfinger finished 11th.
Hailie Deegan finished 24th, three laps down in the first race of her first full-time season. Deegan was involved in a Lap 82 wreck where she sustained front-end damage after hitting the inside backstretch wall.
There were 10 cautions for 43 laps and 31 lead changes among 12 drivers, the latter tying a race record set in 2000.
The first caution came on Lap 1, when Tanner Gray had a drivetrain issue that stacked up the field. This caused James Buescher, Gus Dean and Derek Kraus to wreck, taking Buescher and Dean out of the race.
The conclusion of Stage 1 marked the second caution, with the Top 10 stage finishers as follows: Raphael Lessard, Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, John Hunter Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, Chandler Smith, David Gilliland, Stewart Friesen, Timothy Peters.
Trouble continued for Derek Kraus as he brought out the third and fifth cautions of the race on Lap 36 and Lap 54. On Lap 36, Kraus cut a tire in turn 3 and spun. On Lap 54, Kraus had tire issues again, spinning to bring out the caution. Kraus exited the race on Lap 56, per NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy, finishing 33rd.
The conclusion of Stage 2 marked the fourth caution, with the Top 10 stage finishers as follows: John Hunter Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Raphael Lessard, Ben Rhodes, Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill, Timothy Peters, Grant Enfinger, Tyler Ankrum.
A Lap 62 crash brought out the sixth caution. The frontstretch crash involved Jordan Anderson, Austin Wayne Self and Stewart Friesen.
The seventh caution fell on Lap 66 for a crash involving Jason White, Sheldon Creed, Friesen, Tyler Ankrum and Todd Gilliland on the frontstretch.
The eighth caution fell on Lap 73 for a crash involving Gilliland, Matt Crafton, Tate Fogleman, Friesen, Brett Moffitt and John Hunter Nemechek.
The tenth and final caution fell on Lap 96 for the Big One, which involved Ankrum, Timothy Peters, Nemechek, Drew Dollar, Raphael Lessard, Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Fogleman, Bryan Dauzat and Carson Hocevar.
On the overtime, Ben Rhodes lead but was passed by Sheldon Creed. Creed was pushed by Cory Roper, who pulled out and passed Creed on the frontstretch. Roper held the lead until the exit of turn four, when Rhodes pulled off a slingshot move to win after holding off a hard-charging Jordan Anderson.
The next NCWTS race is February 19 at the Daytona road course (7:30 p.m. ET; TV: FS1, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
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