It’s Rhodes’ Road In A Daytona Truck Marathon

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Ben Rhodes celebrates with a burnout Friday night after winning at the Daytona Road Course. (Jason Reasin photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ben Rhodes survived a triple-overtime marathon Friday night at the Daytona Int’l Speedway road course to score his second straight win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Rhodes, who opened the year last Friday with a win on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval, completed a season-opening sweep at the World Center of Racing by holding off a determined effort from defending series champion Sheldon Creed on the 3.61-mile layout that utilizes both the oval and the infield road course.

The 23-year-old native of Louisville, Ky., took control of the BrakeBest Select 159 on the first of three overtime attempts – powering to the top spot after muscling then-leader Creed out of the way at turn two – then held serve on two subsequent tries at overtime en route to his fifth Truck Series win.

Rhodes officially won the race under caution, after Jett Noland’s Niece Motorsports truck stalled on the frontstretch as the leaders were coming back through turns three and four of the speedway toward the checkered flag.

With his triumph Friday night, Rhodes joined Mark Martin (2006) and Johnny Sauter (2013) as only the third driver to open a Truck Series season with back-to-back victories.

It was also the 200th win in series history for Toyota as a manufacturer.

Following a smoky burnout underneath the flagstand, Rhodes stood in near-disbelief as he soaked in his achievement, having won two races at Daytona in a span of eight days.

“This is unbelievable. I don’t have words for it. I don’t even know what to say,” Rhodes said. “This is so cool. I just have to thank my team. The Bombardier Tundra was fast all day. ThorSport Racing gave me a truck that handled … and we were fast. Rich (Lushes) is a really good crew chief. It’s good to be paired up with him and all of the guys on my team. I’m just thrilled. I don’t know what to say.

“I’ve been on cloud nine all week, so it’s above that (now). I’m just so happy.”

Rhodes appeared to have the win locked down during the first overtime attempt, but a caution that was called as Rhodes’ No. 99 was roughly 50 yards from the start-finish line forced a second attempt, which saw Jennifer Jo Cobb’s truck stop at the pit entrance.

That led to another caution and a third try at overtime, where Rhodes dashed away into the Daytona night as Creed was left to fend off a charging John Hunter Nemechek for the runner-up spot.

Creed held onto the position at the finish but was left to wonder what might have been, after he stalled his truck while trying to save fuel under caution on the 34th of 44 scheduled laps in the event.

Because he didn’t maintain pace during the yellow, Creed was moved from first in the running order to fifth. He got to the lead on a restart with three laps to go, but just didn’t have enough to hold Rhodes back in the end.

“It’s never fun to be the first loser, but the GMS guys brought a fast truck,” said Creed. “I felt like we were on top of the strategy there, going to slicks early, but I got hit by that lap truck (Bobby Reuse) there (while) leading, and I don’t think that did us any favors. I got to the lead, lost it while saving fuel, and worked my way back to the lead … but got pushed out of the way on a restart. I was doing everything I could there; I wish we could have stayed green. The guys in the back of the pack were all over the place.

“We just have to go attack next time out.”

Ben Rhodes (99) chases John Hunter Nemechek Friday at Daytona Int’l Speedway. (Toyota Racing photo)

Nemechek rallied from power issues at the end of the second stage to finish third, charging from outside the top 10 to the podium over the course of the triple-overtime finish.

Todd Gilliland and Riley Herbst were fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by Matt Crafton, Derek Kraus, Kaz Grala, Timmy Hill and Christian Eckes.

Nemechek won the first stage Friday night, while Canadian Raphael Lessard topped the second stage.

Ten cautions, a Truck Series record on a road course, slowed the pace for 20 of 51 laps. The event took two hours, 44 minutes and 46 seconds to complete – the longest race by time in series history.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season continues March 5 with the Bucked Up 200 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch is the three-time defending winner of the event.

To view complete race results, advance to the next page.