Rhodes takes Truck win over Hocevar on Bristol dirt
Ben Rhodes overcame a pit road miscue to grab the lead with three laps to go and held on for a victory in the NASCAR Trucks race at the Bristol Dirt Track.
Rhodes, the reigning series champion, lined up fourth on a restart with four of 150 laps remaining and quickly moved to second, then dove to the inside of leader Carson Hocevar with three to go and back into the lead.
He held off Hocevar by 0.824 seconds for the victory, his first of the 2022 season. Rhodes finished second in the inaugural Bristol Truck race on dirt last season.
Rhodes was able to battle back to the front after failing to heed a call by bis crew to pit after the first stage.
Because of the miscue, he was forced to pit at the end of Stage 2 (teams had to pit at the end of at least one of the stages). That left him in 13th place when the final, 50-lap stage went green.
“I thought we gave it away for a moment,” Rhodes said of the mistake not to pit. “Coming back through the pack like that was really, really tough. It wasn’t something we wanted to do.
“My crew gave me such an awesome Toyota Tundra this weekend that I wasn’t going to let them down. I had to go back up there and earn the spot back. Really, really proud of their effort.”
John Hunter Nemechek ended up third, Parker Kligerman was fourth and Christian Eckes rounded out the top-five.
Asked what he could have done differently to halt Rhodes’ late charge to the lead, Hocevar said, “Either rip the top (lane) or crash him. I mean, I hate saying that, but it’s part of this racing, right? He had newer tires and he had the fastest truck all day.
“He slide-jobbed me and I should have prepared for it, crossed him over and raced him really hard. Second just sucks. It’s terrible, especially being that close.”
Completing the top-10 were Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton and Zane Smith.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, those who did not pit after Stage 1 did so as well as several others further back in the field.
Nemechek stayed out and inherited the lead. He led the way when the race resumed on Lap 92 followed by Kligerman and Buddy Kofoid. Rhodes lined up 13th.
Hocevar dove in front of Nemechek off Turn 4 to move into the lead on Lap 92.
NASCAR was forced to throw a caution on Lap 96 when the No. 22 truck of Austin Wayne Self hit the back of the No. 25 of Matt DiBenedetto and the two trucks got stuck together.
After a nearly six-minute red flag to get the trucks separated, the race returned to green on Lap 106 with Hocevar in the lead followed by Nemechek and Kligerman.
Keith McGee spun and wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 112 to bring out the sixth caution of the race. Hocevar remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 119.
Chandler Smith spun off Turn 4 after contact from Eckes on Lap 125, which brought out another caution. The race resumed on Lap 133 with Hocevar still in command.
Ty Majeski and Kofoid both spun in Turn 2 on Lap 139 while battling for position to place the race under caution. Derek Kraus couldn’t stop in time and ran into the wreck, causing damage to both trucks.
The race returned to green with five laps to go and Hocevar still leading over Nemechek.
Rhodes, one of three drivers not to pit after Stage 1, held of Majeski again to complete the sweep of stage victories.
Nemechek was third, Kligerman fourth and Logano rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most teams made a pit stop but Rhodes stayed out.
On the restart on Lap 42, Rhodes was followed by Majeski, Self and Logano.
Kris Wright spun in Turn 2 on Lap 55 to bring out a caution. The race returned to green on Lap 62 with Rhodes still out front.
With 20 laps remaining in the stage, Rhodes maintained a small lead over Majeski as Logano ran in third.
Nemechek move into third with five laps to go as Rhodes remained out front.
Rhodes, who finished second in this race a year ago, held off Majeski to take the Stage 1 win.
Stewart Friesen was third, Logano fourth and Chandler Smith rounded out the top-five.
Logano started on the pole but Rhodes powered past him to lead Lap 1.
On Lap 24, Andrew Gordon spun off Turn 4 to bring out the first caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 32, Rhodes remained out front followed by Logano, Friesen and Majeski.
Earlier in the day, Austin Dillon, Majeski, Logano and Chandler Smith all won 15-lap heat races, which were used to set the starting lineup.
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