Rhodes Woos The Lady In Black
(DARLINGTON, SC - SEP 6, 2020 - RIS) Ben Rhodes and his crew gambled on not taking tires with a late race caution leading to an overtime finish, then had to overcome a challenge from Derek Kraus to earn his first Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race in almost 50 events, with his last victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2018. Rookie Derek Kraus, Austin Hill, Grand Enfinger and another rookie, Christian Eckes completed the top five finishers.
More throwback paint schemes, throwback drivers and the trucks' return to Darlington for the series' first race here since 2011 headlined some of the pre-race news. Sheldon Creed led Brett Moffitt at the green flag but Bryant Barnhill slammed into the wall to bring out the first caution after only three laps. The competition caution flew on lap 20 with Timmy Hill staying on the track with Austin Hill unhappy that his spotter didn't tell him and he chose the wrong lane for the restart. Moffitt and Creed headed the pack with Hill third as Ben Rhodes held third. Austin Hill closed on Creed, then passed for second and made a challenge for the lead as the first stage ended but fell just short as Moffitt drove under the green and white checkered flag first. Creed was third with Rhodes fourth and David Ragan fifth after starting last in the 34 truck field. Ragan's crew gained on the field by mounting only right side tires during the competition caution period.
Moffitt and Creed headed Austin Hill and Tyler Ankrum at the start with Ankrum fading back to sixth and Ben Rhodes just ahead of Raphael Lessard in fourth and fifth.
Moffitt swept the second stage, picking the inside line for the restart, giving Austin Hill the choice of the outside line but followed by a fellow GMR driver, Sheldon Creed who gave him a push on the restart, shooting the pair into first and second. Raphael Lessard followed Austin Hill in fourth with Ben Rhodes in fifth.
Tyler Ankrum spun trying a pass on Zane Smith but the worst damage was to the tires. "I don't know why I did that," he commented. "I just got excited," to which his spotter replied "turn the page," meaning 'learn the lesson and keep going.'
Moffitt and Creed started side by side again, with Austin Hill outside of Ralpael Lessard on teh second row. Lessard pushed Moffitt into the lead before dropping back to third with Matt Crafton chasing Hill.
Tanner Gray spun with 25 laps to go, taking Zane Smith into the outside wall and causing the sixth caution of the race. The big decision for crews this time was 'two tires, or four?' with most opting for all four, Moffitt leading the race off of pit road. Once again, Moffitt picked the bottom lane with Austin Hill behind him and Creed to his right.
While Creed took advantage of the battle to edge into the lead, Hill gave Moffitt a hard shove and looked to the inside, dropped back to third, then back to second with a pass of Moffittto retake second. Creed opened up a lead of over a half second on Hill before Josh Reaume's spin with two laps left in the race caught David Ragan and set up an overtime finish. Reaume's spin started with a tap from Matt Crafton.
Creed, Hill, Moffitt and Crafton all pitted but Rhodes stayed out from third place, inheriting the race lead. Creed's shot at a fourth win in the season ended with a penalty for speeding while entering the pits.
Rhodes picked the top lane for the overtime restart with Christian Eckes next to him, with Derek Kraus third and needing a win to move into the playoffs. Rhodes grabbed the lead from Kraus after Kraus drafted around and into the lead briefly.
"I got challenged. That was such a tough win. We weren't the best truck all day. I was actually really disappointed when the caution flag came out because I thought 'fourth place points, we're going to get in the playoffs but I'm not letting this checkered flag go. It's been a long time coming," Rhodes said after his burnout and getting the flag.
"Kevin (Bellicourt, crew chief) up on top of the box made a really good call there at the end. Got a good restart and did everything I needed to, but there off of two – I got really loose off of two. It was my mistake, but overall I felt like it was a great day. We struggled some in the beginning, but Kevin got this NAPA Filters Toyota Tundra tuned up for the end of the race," said Kraus following the race.
Austin Hill commented that: "We figured if the 2 (Sheldon Creed) and the 23 (Brett Moffitt) pitted with us that it would bring some other guys down pit road and we kind of figured that the guys that are on the bubble for the Playoffs would probably stay out. The three or four guys that are fighting for that last spot, we figured they would stay out or guys that need a win would definitely stay out. We were kind of surprised that 10 or 11 of them stayed out and we restarted there in 11th. It's one of those things, damned if you do, damned if you don't type deals. It's one of those calls that you have to make and they left it up to me. When I saw the 2 and the 23 going with me, I knew those were the two guys I was racing all day. Us three were kind of the class of the field. I figured that I needed to pit with them. All it took was having a caution, if we would have had a caution after we got through turn one and two really good and we got to stack them back up, it would have been a totally different outcome. We would have definitely won the race just because of how much faster new tires were. Then I got bottled up on that green flag start coming off of two and then actually entry into three, I got bottled up behind somebody so that kind of hurt my speed a little bit coming to the white. It's one of those things that you look back on, we feel like we made the right call, but we needed a few more guys. Even if we had two or three more guys come down pit road with us, that would have changed the whole outcome."
"I'm going to say for sure, 100 percent," added Hill about Darlington becoming part of the regular Truck Series schedule. "I'm not just saying that because we ran really well today, it's just a really cool race track. It's very unique. There's no other race track like this. Tire wear is big. Turn one and two is totally different than any other race track you go to. You're entry to one, you're rolling out of the throttle a little bit and then you get back wide open and then you kind of reset again past center to get off turn two really good and there's a lot of patches through there. It's a very challenging and technical race track. There's a lot of lanes you can run in three and four. We were really good for a few laps on the top and then we'd be good on the bottom. It's just one of those race tracks where you can move around. Clean air was big, that was obviously a big thing was clean air. I still thought the race was really good just the way it played out and the way we could battle there. I think it should definitely be a race track that we keep coming to and maybe even a race track you start putting in the Playoffs."
Unofficial Results, South Carolina Education Lottery 200, Darlington Raceway
Fin, Str, Driver, Truck, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 5, Ben Rhodes, No. 99 Tenda Heal Ford, 152, 4, 4, 2, 4, 5, 54, Running
2) 13, Derek Kraus #, No. 19 Ron Hornaday Throwback Toyota, 152, , , 1, 1, , 35, Running
3) 3, Austin Hill, No. 16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota, 152, 2, 3, , , , 51, Running
4) 7, Grant Enfinger, No. 98 Farm Paint/Curb Records Ford, 152, , , , , , 33, Running
5) 17, Christian Eckes #, No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota, 152, 9, , , , , 34, Running
6) 6, Raphael Lessard #, No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota, 152, 8, 6, , , , 39, Running
7) 15, Todd Gilliland, No. 38 Black's Tire Service Ford, 152, , 9, , , , 32, Running
8) 8, Stewart Friesen, No. 52 Halmar Racing To Beat Hunger Toyota, 152, , , , , , 29, Running
9) 21, Timmy Hill, No. 56 Jerry Hill Throwback Chevrolet, 152, , , 1, 2, , 28, Running
10) 1, Brett Moffitt, No. 23 GMS Fabrication Chevrolet, 152, 1, 2, 3, 63, 1, 46, Running
11) 9, Tyler Ankrum, No. 26 LiUNA! Chevrolet, 152, 7, 7, , , , 34, Running
12) 29, Bayley Currey, No. 44 Hardcore Fish & Game Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 12, Ty Majeski #, No. 45 iRacing Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 10, Matt Crafton, No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Ford, 152, 6, 8, , , , 31, Running
15) 18, Tate Fogleman #, No. 02 Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 4, Zane Smith #, No. 21 Michael Roberts Construction Chevrolet, 152, 10, 10, , , , 23, Running
17) 24, Austin Wayne Self, No. 22 GOTEXAN/AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 2, Sheldon Creed, No. 2 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet, 152, 3, 1, 4, 82, 1, 37, Running
19) 20, Greg Biffle, No. 24 SOKAL DIGITAL Chevrolet, 152, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 16, Danny Bohn, No. 30 North American Motor Car Toyota, 152, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 22, Clay Greenfield, No. 68 Rackley Roofing Toyota, 152, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 34, David Ragan(i), No. 17 Shriners Hospitals Ford, 152, 5, 5, , , , 0, Running
23) 14, Chandler Smith, No. 51 JBL/Smith General Contracting Toyota, 151, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 19, Jordan Anderson, No. 3 Bommarito.com Chevrolet, 151, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 33, Codie Rohrbaugh, No. 9 Pray for Joshua Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 25, Spencer Boyd, No. 20 Freedom Warranty Chevrolet, 150, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 26, Trevor Bayne, No. 40 Plan B Sales Chevrolet, 149, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 30, Josh Reaume, No. 00 Colonial Countertops Toyota, 149, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 11, Tanner Gray #, No. 15 Ford/Ford Performance Ford, 148, , , , , , 8, Running
30) 31, Jennifer Jo Cobb, No. 10 Fastener Supply Company Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 23, Johnny Sauter, No. 13 Vivitar Ford, 138, , , , , , 6, Engine
32) 32, Norm Benning, No. 6 H&H Transport Chevrolet, 52, , , , , , 5, Handling
33) 28, Dawson Cram, No. 41 Magnum Contracting Inc. Chevrolet, 51, , , , , , 5, Accident
34) 27, Bryant Barnhill, No. 33 Bell & Bell Toyota, 4, , , , , , 5, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Race Length: 152 laps, 207.632 miles
Time of Race: 1 hr, 53 min, 44 sec
Average Speed: 109.536 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.785 sec
Stage 1 Top 10: 23, 16, 2, 99, 17, 88, 26, 4, 18, 21
Stage 2 Top 10: 2, 23, 16, 99, 17, 4, 26, 88, 38, 21
Race Comments: Ben Rhodes won the South Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Darlington Raceway, his third NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series victory.
Caution Flags: 7 for 35 laps;
Laps: 6-10 (No. 33 Incident Turn 3 [None]);
22-25 (Competition Caution );
47-51 (Stage 1 Conclusion );
92-97 (Stage 2 Conclusion );
104-107 (No. 26 Spin Turn 2 );
124-129 (No. 15, 21 Incident Turn 1 );
146-150 (No. 00, 17, 88 Incident Backstretch ).
Lead Changes: 11 among 5 drivers;
S. Creed 1-9;
B. Moffitt 10;
S. Creed 11-22;
T. Hill 23-24;
B. Moffitt 25-51;
S. Creed 52-94;
B. Moffitt 95-129;
S. Creed 130-147;
B. Rhodes 148-149;
D. Kraus No. 150;
B. Rhodes 151-152.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.