Entering the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nick Sanchez and Christian Eckes were above the cutline.
Sanchez and Eckes were there by three and nine points, respectively. Meanwhile, defending champion Zane Smith was in a must-win situation to join them.
Through much of the race, all three of them did what they needed to do to advance.
Then, three other drivers pulled together the right strategy and speed to dash their Championship Four hopes.
During green-flag pit stops in the final 30 laps, Carson Hocevar passed Smith for the lead and won.
NASCAR later disqualified Smith for an illegal windshield support. That caused it to flex during the race, giving them a possible aerodynamic advantage.
Before all that, Rhodes mounted a charge at the win after having a ninth-place truck at best all day.
With 54 laps to go, crew chief Rich Lushes brought Ben Rhodes to pit road. Rhodes tore from outside the top 20 to the lead in just 17 laps.
The 2021 Truck champion had to maintain as other drivers took on new tires. Rhodes then did. He finished second and made the Championship Four by one point over Nick Sanchez.
“I should be celebrating right now. We have a chance to go for a championship and today was an absolute blessing to finish the way it was. I didn’t see that coming. That was a ‘Rich Special’,” Rhodes said.
Sanchez faded from placing third in stage two to finishing 17th in the end.
Grant Enfinger finished fourth and knocked Christian Eckes out.
Christian Eckes placed sixth in stage one. Then, after NASCAR called him for an illegal restart in stage two, Eckes sped on pit road in stage three.
Eckes could only muster a 20th-place finish, one lap down. He missed the Championship Four by four points.
Corey Heim, Carson Hocevar, Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes will race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship. That will take place November 3 at Phoenix Raceway (10 p.m. ET; Broadcast: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)