Friday night’s BrakeBest Select 159 on the Daytona International Speedway road course provided the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a special combination: Truck road racing at night and in the rain. For the first time in series history, a race was conducted in wet conditions.
As it turned out, the rain would be the least of everyone’s concerns as numerous incidents and lengthy caution periods plagued the race, including three overtime periods. By the end of the nearly three-hour-long fiasco, ending under what was the tenth caution of the race, Ben Rhodes walked away with his second straight victory in as many races in 2021.
Rhodes, who won the previous week’s opener on the Daytona oval, started on the pole ahead of Ryan Truex while defending race winner Sheldon Creed was fifth. Due to the weather, NASCAR declared a “wet” start that required drivers to go to pit road and add treaded rain tyres. While the 159 marked the first time that the Trucks raced in the rain, the series was the first of the three NASCAR national divisions (Cup and Xfinity) to utilise rain-specific tyres for a points race weekend, doing so for a practice at Watkins Glen in 1999. Various drivers in the field boasted wet-weather racing experience such as Creed, who has won in the rain in the Stadium Super Trucks and Trans-Am Series.
Stages #1 and 2
Truex, Creed, and John Hunter Nemechek went wide as they entered the sharp left opening turn, but others were not as lucky when GMS Racing team-mates Raphaël Lessard and Zane Smith spun in the corner. Nemechek and Creed kept up with the leader Rhodes and Nemechek would lead the opening lap. Creed passed Rhodes for second on lap two, and he and Nemechek began to pull away.
Tyler Ankrum and Cory Roper, who nearly won last week’s race, spun but did not suffer damage. After five laps, Truck newcomer and IMSA driver Parker Chase reached the top ten after starting twenty-second. Meanwhile, Jason White received a stop-and-go penalty for missing a chicane; he eventually exited the race.
With four laps remaining in the stage, Riley Herbst, doing a one-off for David Gilliland Racing to prepare for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, went into the grass in the infield. Shortly after, Roper spun in the International Horseshoe to bring out the caution. Creed was among the pitters, while Chase and Jennifer Jo Cobb suffered speeding penalties on their stops and Timothy Peters had one for equipment over the wall too soon.
Nemechek and Rhodes led the field to the restart with one lap to go, and the two finished in that order ahead of Chandler Smith, Brett Moffitt, Truex, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill, Creed, and Herbst. Ankrum briefly exited the race between stages after losing power, while Chase Purdy was penalised for a safety violation.
After staying out, Nemechek remained the leader to begin Stage #2. Creed, on fresher tyres, caught Nemechek for the lead on lap 15; at one point, contact from Bobby Reuse as he tried to lap him sent Creed wide but he recovered. Tanner Gray spun after contact with Sauter though the race stayed green.
By lap 20, GMS trucks occupied the top three as Creed led Lessard and Smith. As the segment winded down, Creed pitted to add slick tyres and Lessard inherited the lead from his team-mate. With three laps to go, Nemechek’s truck lost oil pressure and stopped at the Bus Stop’s entrance, producing a caution. Unlike the conclusion to Stage #1, the second stage came to an end under yellow. Lessard led Kaz Grala, Smith, Austin Wayne Self, Todd Gilliland, Crafton, Hailie Deegan, Creed, Purdy, and Moffitt. Interestingly, the stage winners were an inversion from last week’s race as Lessard won Stage #1 and Nemechek did so for the second.
With the track continue to dry, drivers were permitted to turn off their red rear brake light ahead of the final stage. On pit road, one of Danny Bohn‘s crewmen went over the wall too soon and he had to start at the back.
Rhodes was the first off pit road after only taking fuel, while Crafton stayed out to hold the lead alongside Creed for the final stage. Creed cleared Crafton for the lead approaching turn one. As Creed established a comfortable margin over the field, reaching over four seconds by lap 30, Herbst took second. Crafton, still on wet tyres, began a free-fall through the running order that dropped him out of the top ten.
With 13 laps to go, Niece Motorsports‘ Carson Hocevar and Truex were involved in a bizarre accident in which the former’s tyre went down as he exited pit road, causing him to hit the sand barrel lining the pit wall; Truex was unable to avoid him and slammed into his rear, resulting in substantial damage to both trucks. Peters was also involved as he cut a tyre.
During the caution, Creed failed to maintain pace car speed after being unable to re-fire his engine, relegating him to sixth for the restart as the lead was cycled to Herbst. Parallels to Creed’s predicament could be drawn to Marcos Ambrose in the 2010 Cup race at Sonoma, where his hopes of a maiden victory were dashed late after his car stalled while re-firing his engine in an attempt to save fuel.
The race resumed with nine laps to go, and a strong restart by Stewart Friesen sent him to the lead before going wide and losing the spot. Creed quickly rejoined the conversation behind Rhodes and Herbst as they went through the International Horseshoe. As the field settled into order, Rhodes led Creed. During the lap, Self fell off the pace after going off course in the Bus Stop chicane.
Nearing the frontstretch chicane, Smith was turned into the wall by Moffitt as they approached it, causing terminal damage to Smith’s truck. Chase attempted to avoid the wreck and hopped over the rumble strip, leading to a spin through the chicane.
The restart came six laps remaining. Rhodes cleared Creed entering turn one while Creed was passed by Herbst, sparking a battle for second. Spencer Boyd and Hill respectively spun in turn six and the Bus Stop; both trucks could not re-fire and another yellow flag was flown.
The next green-flag racing was short-lived after resuming with three laps left. Rhodes and Creed, who carry animosity between each other, were side-by-side through the first corner before Creed made his move along the inside in the International Horseshoe. Rhodes attempted to return the favour in the West Horseshoe but failed. In turn four, Sam Mayer hit Gray and the latter slid into the barriers, resulting in yet another caution and overtime.
Creed’s team expressed concern about fuel and Rhodes’ presence as overtime began. He overshot the first two corners as Rhodes and Herbst passed him, though he retook second from the latter. A considerable gap developed between Rhodes and Creed as the latter faced pressure from Nemechek, but Rhodes could not take the white flag in time before Truck Series débutant Jett Noland spun after being clipped by Deegan and Self hit the wall.
Overtime #2 commenced with Nemechek pushing Rhodes to the lead and much of the field stacking up. Ankrum and Smith in the esses. Jennifer Jo Cobb would be responsible for another overtime session after stalling on track. Roper retired before the green after his truck could not fire on pit road.
Rhodes retained the lead on the third overtime restart as Creed and Nemechek filed in behind. Deegan spun in turn five but no caution was called. Creed narrowed the gap after Rhodes missed the Bus Stop, with the two isolating themselves from Nemechek who in turn had a gap over the field.
After Rhodes took the white flag to spare the world from a fourth overtime, Creed continued to give chase. Perhaps appropriately, the race would end under caution when Noland’s truck stopped in the frontstretch chicane, granting Rhodes his second consecutive win and fifth of his career. It is the first time in Rhodes’ career that he won multiple Truck races in a season, and the second time he accomplished it in a NASCAR-sanctioned series after his five-win 2014 championship campaign in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East. The victory is also Toyota‘s 200th in the Truck Series.
“I don’t have words for it. I don’t know what to say, this is so cool,” Rhodes said in his post-race interview with FS1. “[…] ThorSport Racing gave me a truck that handled this year and we were fast. Rich (Lushes) is a good crew chief, really good crew chief, good to be paired up with him. I’m just thrilled.
“I don’t know what to say. I’ve been on Cloud Nine all week, so this is above that. I’m just so happy.”
Creed settled for second, saying in his interview that it is “never fun to be the first loser. Guys brought a fast truck. I felt like I was on top of the strategy there going to slicks early and I got hit by that lapper there (Reuse) leading and I don’t think that did us any favours. Got to the lead, stalled it saving fuel, and then worked for the lead, got pushed out of the way on the restart. Man, just doing everything I could there. The guys in the back were all over the place.”
The race lasted approximately two hours, 44 minutes, and 43 seconds; for comparison, the 2020 Cup race on the road course lasted just two hours, 37 minutes, and 30 seconds, while a standard-length IMSA race runs for two hours and 40 minutes. Ten cautions were flown and lasted for twenty of fifty-one total laps. Cup driver Denny Hamlin quipped after the race, “More road courses.”
|1||1||99||Ben Rhodes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|2||5||2||Sheldon Creed||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|3||4||4||John Hunter Nemechek||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||51||Running|
|4||32||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||51||Running|
|5||25||17||Riley Herbst*||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||51||Running|
|6||9||88||Matt Crafton||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|7||31||19||Derek Kraus||McAnally-Hilgemann Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|8||24||02||Kaz Grala*||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|9||34||56||Timmy Hill*||Hill Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|10||16||98||Christian Eckes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|11||30||52||Stewart Friesen||Halmar Friesen Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|12||8||18||Chandler Smith||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||51||Running|
|13||37||8||Camden Murphy||NEMCO Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|14||3||42||Carson Hocevar||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|15||14||22||Austin Wayne Self||AM Racing||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|16||7||9||Codie Rohrbaugh||CR7 Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|17||38||41||Dawson Cram||Cram Racing Enterprises||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|18||19||13||Johnny Sauter||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||51||Running|
|19||28||12||Tate Fogleman||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|20||33||15||Tanner Gray||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||51||Running|
|21||26||26||Tyler Ankrum||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|22||29||23||Chase Purdy||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|23||22||51||Parker Chase||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||51||Running|
|24||27||25||Timothy Peters||Rackley WAR||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|25||21||45||Brett Moffitt||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|26||12||24||Raphaël Lessard||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||51||Running|
|27||13||3||Bobby Reuse||Jordan Anderson Racing||Chevrolet||50||Running|
|28||23||1||Hailie Deegan||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||50||Running|
|29||35||44||Jett Noland||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||49||Accident|
|30||15||30||Danny Bohn||On Point Motorsports||Toyota||49||Running|
|31||2||40||Ryan Truex||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||48||Running|
|32||39||6||Norm Benning||Norm Benning Racing||Chevrolet||48||Running|
|33||20||16||Austin Hill||Hattori Racing Enterprises||Toyota||48||Running|
|34||6||04||Cory Roper||Roper Racing||Ford||47||Fuel Pressure|
|35||17||10||Jennifer Jo Cobb||Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing||Chevrolet||47||Running|
|36||40||34||Lawless Alan||Reaume Brothers Racing||Toyota||45||Running|
|37||36||75||Sam Mayer||Henderson Motorsports||Chevrolet||41||Accident|
|38||18||33||Jason White||Reaume Brothers Racing||Chevrolet||41||Running|
|39||10||20||Spencer Boyd||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||38||Transmission|
|40||11||21||Zane Smith||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||35||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Truck points