Ben Rhodes began the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season by winning the first two races. On Friday night, he ended the season with his first series championship. Despite not winning the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, Rhodes finished ahead of Championship Round rivals Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, and Matt Crafton to secure the title in his sixth full year of Truck competition.
A pair of eliminated drivers led the way in qualifying as Chandler Smith won the pole ahead of Sheldon Creed. Rhodes topped the Championship Four with a fourth-place qualifying effort ahead of Crafton’s fifth. Zane Smith and Nemechek started thirteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Dawson Cram, Jennifer Jo Cobb, and Norm Benning missed the show.
Creed, reeling after missing the final round by just four points, quickly jumped to the lead. Ten laps in, Nemechek’s title hopes were quickly jeopardised when contact with Kris Wright caused him to brush the wall and his left-front tyre to go down. As a result, he fell two laps down and out of the top thirty. Lawless Alan‘s spin a lap later led to a caution.
Smith passed Creed for the top spot on lap 35 and led to the stage win. Todd Gilliland, Stewart Friesen, Rhodes, Carson Hocevar, Crafton, Christian Eckes, Zane Smith, and Derek Kraus rounded out the top ten; Nemechek was thirtieth. Taylor Gray spun with a downed right-rear coming to the finish.
Beating the field off pit road between segments, Creed assumed the lead to begin Stage #2. Nemechek elected to pit, subverting expectations that he would stay out and take the wave-around to return to the lead lap. The stage commenced with Creed taking off ahead of Rhodes. Although Nemechek began the stage as the first lapped truck and would rejoin the lead lap if a caution came out via free pass, Creed and the leaders eventually passed Spencer Boyd, shuffling the pass to him instead.
Much like in the first stage, Creed dominated the second before Chandler Smith took the lead on the final lap. Rhodes once again led the final four in third, followed by Friesen, Gilliland, Zane Smith, Hocevar, Crafton, Enfinger, and Eckes. Nemechek remained a lap down in twenty-seventh and the fourth driver a lap down behind Will Rodgers, Jordan Anderson, and Austin Wayne Self. While the three took the wave-around, Nemechek once again decided against it and assumed the free pass position.
Friesen and Smith paced the grid to the start of Stage #3. A strong restart by Creed propelled him to the lead two corners later before the caution came out for Tate Fogleman‘s truck stopping on the track, finally placing Nemechek back on the lead lap. Creed continued to lead on the lap 106 restart. Four laps later, Zane Smith overtook Rhodes for third to become the highest-running playoff driver.
By the 20-to-go mark, Nemechek had caught Crafton for eleventh while Chandler Smith took second from Friesen. Smith cleared Creed for first on lap 133, and Friesen did the same to take second shortly after. With ten laps remaining, Rhodes chased down Zane Smith for fourth, an effort that was aided by lapped traffic and a tap from the rear, before completing the pass two laps later.
Chandler Smith drove off to his second career win, also securing him Rookie of the Year honours. He is the third Kyle Busch Motorsports driver to win ROTY after Erik Jones in 2015 (also won the championship) and William Byron the following year.
Behind Smith and Friesen, Rhodes placed third to win the championship. It is ThorSport Racing‘s fourth driver’s championship after Crafton won in 2013, 2014, and 2019, while Rhodes enjoys his first title since winning the now-ARCA Menards Series East in 2014.
“That was the hardest last forty laps I think I have ever driven in my life,” said Rhodes. “I was doing things to the race car I probably shouldn’t have been doing, it was dumb, but I had everything to lose. And we brought it home and won it. I don’t even know what to say. This is crazy. Bookends for the season, I am so proud of my ThorSport Racing group. This wasn’t like a vision we had, right, everyone wants to win it, but you just don’t know, it’s so hard.”
Zane Smith finished fifth to place runner-up in the standings for the second straight season. Nemechek, the regular season champion, concluded his night in seventh for a third-place points run. Crafton, who would have tied Ron Hornaday Jr. for the most championships in Truck Series history had he won, was twelfth.
|1||1||18||Chandler Smith||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||150||Running|
|2||7||52||Stewart Friesen||Halmar Friesen Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|3||4||99||Ben Rhodes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|4||2||2||Sheldon Creed||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|5||13||21||Zane Smith||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|6||9||98||Christian Eckes||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|7||16||4||John Hunter Nemechek||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||150||Running|
|8||3||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||150||Running|
|9||6||42||Carson Hocevar †||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|10||11||16||Austin Hill||Hattori Racing Enterprises||Toyota||150||Running|
|11||17||13||Johnny Sauter||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|12||5||88||Matt Crafton||ThorSport Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|13||27||9||Grant Enfinger||CR7 Motorsports||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|14||14||26||Tyler Ankrum||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|15||8||19||Derek Kraus||McAnally-Hilgemann Racing||Toyota||150||Running|
|16||12||23||Chase Purdy †||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|17||10||1||Hailie Deegan †||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||150||Running|
|18||23||51||Drew Dollar||Kyle Busch Motorsports||Toyota||150||Running|
|19||18||40||Ryan Truex||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|20||15||24||Jack Wood||GMS Racing||Chevrolet||150||Running|
|21||25||44||Dean Thompson||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||149||Running|
|22||30||34||Will Rodgers||Reaume Brothers Racing||Toyota||149||Running|
|23||29||3||Jordan Anderson||Jordan Anderson Racing||Chevrolet||149||Running|
|24||32||25||Willie Allen||Rackley WAR||Chevrolet||149||Running|
|25||19||32||Ty Dillon||Bret Holmes Racing||Chevrolet||149||Running|
|26||24||22||Austin Wayne Self||AM Racing||Chevrolet||147||Running|
|27||31||33||Chris Hacker||Reaume Brothers Racing||Toyota||147||Running|
|28||28||30||Danny Bohn||On Point Motorsports||Toyota||147||Running|
|29||26||17||Taylor Gray||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||146||Running|
|30||35||04||Cory Roper||Roper Racing||Ford||146||Running|
|31||36||20||Spencer Boyd||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||146||Running|
|32||20||02||Kris Wright #||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||143||Running|
|33||34||56||Tyler Hill||Hill Motorsports||Chevrolet||106||Alternator|
|34||21||12||Tate Fogleman||Young’s Motorsports||Chevrolet||98||Electrical|
|35||22||15||Tanner Gray||David Gilliland Racing||Ford||80||Rear Gear|
|36||33||45||Lawless Alan||Niece Motorsports||Chevrolet||11||Accident|
Underline – Championship Round driver
Italics – Rookie of the Year
† – Competed for Rookie of the Year