Ben Rhodes ended up in the right place at the right time for his first NASCAR Truck Series win of the 2020 season.
Rhodes stayed on the track and inherited the lead when most of the lead-lap trucks elected to pit during a late-race caution that sent the race into a two-lap overtime.
On the restart, Rhodes allowed Derek Kraus to slip by him but he got back around the rookie in Turns 3 and 4 and held off him on the final lap to win Sunday’s race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
The win is the first for Rhodes since his July 2018 victory at Kentucky Speedway. While he appeared safely in the Truck Series playoffs by points, Sunday’s win locks him in the field with one race remaining in the regular season.
Rhodes led twice in the race for a grand total of four laps including the final two.
“That was such a tough win. We weren’t the best truck all day,” Rhodes said. “I was actually very disappointed when the (final) caution flag came out because I was thinking fourth-place, that would be a good finish for us, we’re going to get into the playoffs.
“But I’m not letting this checkered flag go. It’s been a long time coming and I’m so proud of my No. 99 team. They’ve done an amazing job all year just staying consistent. We come here with no practice and never being here before and we were able to get the win.
“We got challenged. I was trying to get a good jump on the restart but we were playing some games there and (Kraus) tried to get a good run on me and he messed up coming off Turn 2. It feels pretty good.”
The race was dominated by Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed, who combined to lead 145 of the 152 laps. Both drivers pit under the final caution. Moffitt finished 10th and Creed ended up 18th, as he also picked up a speeding penalty while making his pit stop.
Austin Hill finished third, Grant Enfinger was fourth and Christian Eckes rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Raphael Lessard, Todd Gilliland, Stewart Friesen, Timmy Hill and Moffitt.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap trucks pit with Moffitt again the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 98, Moffitt led the way followed by Austin Hill and Creed.
On Lap 102, Tyler Ankrum spun off Turn 2 to bring out a caution. Zane Smith also appeared to receive some damage after being collected in the incident.
Some drivers elected to pit during the caution, but Moffitt remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 108.
Tanner Gray spun around between Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 123 to bring out another caution in an incident that also collected Zane Smith again.
All lead-lap trucks pit with Moffitt once the first off pit road. The race returned to green on Lap 130 with Moffitt still out front.
Creed powered around Moffitt on the high side entering Turn 3 after the restart to retake the lead.
With 10 laps to go, Creed had built more than a half-second lead over Austin Hill, with Moffitt in third, 1.2 seconds behind the leader.
On Lap 145, Josh Reaume wrecked on the backstretch to bring out the caution and send the race into a two-lap overtime.
Several lead-lap drivers elected to pit including Creed, Moffitt and Austin Hill, which left Rhodes out front when the race returned to green.
During his pit stop, Creed was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field, knocking him out of contention for the win.
Creed easily held off Moffitt to claim the Stage 2 victory.
Austin Hill was third, Rhodes fourth and David Ragan rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all lead-lap trucks pit with Moffitt the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 52, Moffitt lead the way followed by Austin Hill.
Creed powered into the lead on Lap 52 as Moffitt dropped to second and Austin Hill ran third.
With 30 laps remaining in the second stage, Creed maintained a small but steady lead over Moffitt.
With 15 laps to go, Creed’s advantage over Moffitt remained about a half-second as Austin Hill ran third.
On Lap 79, Lessard moved into fifth, cracking for the top-five for the first time in the race.
With five laps remaining in the second stage, Johnny Sauter reported his No. 13 Ford may be down a cylinder.
Moffitt cruised to the Stage 1 win over Austin Hill with Creed coming in third.
Rhodes was fourth and Ragan rounded out the top-five.
Moffitt started on the pole but Creed grabbed the lead quickly after the restart.
Caution was displayed on Lap 5 for debris in Turn 4 after Bryant Barnhill had slammed the wall. The race returned to green on Lap 11 with Creed still out front.
On Lap 21, NASCAR displayed a caution to allow teams to check tire wear. Most of the lead-lap trucks elected to pit with Moffitt the first off pit road.
The race returned to green on Lap 26 with Timmy Hill leading the way after staying on the track followed by Moffitt.
With 15 laps remaining in the first stage, Moffitt maintain a half-second lead over Creed with Austin Hill running third.
With less than 10 laps to go, Moffitt had expanded his advantage to more than 2 seconds over Creed.
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