Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Slide Jobs Into Late Lead to Win Bristol Dirt Race

In a Nutshell

Ben Rhodes overtook both John Hunter Nemechek and Carson Hocevar with less than five laps to go on his way to score his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2022 in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night, April 16. Hocevar and Nemechek finished second and third, respectively, followed by Parker Kligerman and Christian Eckes in fourth and fifth.

The Win That Could’ve Been

There were only two leaders in Saturday night’s dirty event — Rhodes and Hocevar.

Rhodes went on to win on Saturday night, but before the final caution flag, Hocevar was on his way to sailing into his first career Truck Series win.

After Rhodes swept both stages one and two, the No. 99 Toyota finally pitted after most of the field, who had already pitted following the conclusion of stage one, had stayed out. It left the door open for the 19-year-old Niece Motorsports driver to inherit the lead — and even keep it.

For 55 laps out of the 150 run to that point, and through four cautions and three restarts, Hocevar held off hard chargers like Nemechek and Kligerman to keep his lead.

But he couldn’t keep it for a fourth restart.

Rhodes, who had restarted fourth, ripped the high line and blew by the No. 4 of Nemechek upon the final restart with six laps to go. With only four laps to go and only the No. 42 in front of him, Rhodes pulled a slide job — a staple move in the world of dirt track racing — to take the lead from Hocevar.

Hocevar finished second. Another opportunity at that increasingly elusive first win had gone.

Race Notes

Dirt Aces and Dirt Rookies

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series offers two dirt races on the series schedule, the most out of any of the top three national series.

Like the road course ringers of NASCAR (drivers that make their racing living in the worlds of sports cars or open-wheel car racing), we’ll often see dirt track aces come into the sport to try their hand at stock cars.

Saturday night had its fair share.

The most prominent was the maiden start of Buddy Kofoid, the current defending USAC National Midget Series champion.

Kofoid drove the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports on Saturday night, starting 32nd and ending his first Truck Series start in 27th — though looking at where he started and where he finished certainly does not do his effort justice. At one point, Kofoid was well and truly a threat for the win.

After he had worked himself into the top 10 and finished seventh in stage two, Kofoid looked to be reeling in the leaders among his KBM teammate Nemechek. In the final stages of the race, his dirt prowess was on full display, and with 10 laps to go, he was running down eventual leader Rhodes for position.

Behind him was Ty Majeski, and very much unlike Kofoid, Saturday night was Majeski’s first ever race on dirt, period.

Majeski, who had grown up competing in iRacing and racing late model events on asphalt short tracks, had never competed in a dirt track race in his life. That seemed hard to believe, because for most of the night, the No. 66 truck was competing within the top five.

With 10 laps to go, however, their worlds collided. Literally.

Majeski would end his night in 21st.

Self and DiBenedetto get tangled up … literally

Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

It was shortly after the beginning of the final stage when Austin Wayne Self and Matt DiBenedetto found themselves as the middle of a dirt sandwich as everyone clamored for position. In the middle of the mess, DiBenedetto tried to pull a slide job on the No. 22 of Self.

Self hit the rear end of DiBenedetto and kept pushing him through the rest of the corner. Then, he kept pushing him through the straightaway. Then into the next corner.

It was around then they probably realized something wasn’t right.

While still connected, both Self and DiBenedetto came to a stop on the backstretch, leaving puzzled fans, drivers, officials and just about anybody you can think of in the world of NASCAR all scratching their heads in confusion.

It took a six-minute red flag, a tow truck and many safety crew members to unhinge the two Chevrolet trucks.

Self (who at one point was running third) and DiBenedetto finished 35th and 36th, second to last and last, as a result.

2022 Rookie Report

No. 9 – Blaine Perkins
No. 24 – Jack Wood
No. 40 – Dean Thompson
No. 45 – Lawless Alan
No. 51 – Corey Heim

No. of rookies in the race: 4
No. of rookies in the top 10: 0
Rookie of the Race: Thompson (16th)

Points Report: With his perfect stage sweep and win, not only has Rhodes locked himself into the 2022 Truck Series playoffs, he has increased his lead in the regular season standings.

Chandler Smith, who is also locked into the playoffs, and Stewart Friesen are second and third, 38 and 51 points behind, respectively.

Zane Smith, who is locked into the playoffs as well, is fourth, with Nemechek and Eckes trailing close behind. All three are within 72 points of the lead.

Seventh is Majeski, with Tanner Gray continuing a quietly successful year in 2022 in eighth, 85 points back. Hocevar, who had a strong showing on Saturday night, penetrated the top 10 and now runs ninth in the standings, seven points to the good in the playoffs.

He and Matt Crafton both are on the bubble of the playoff standings, with Grant Enfinger only nine points behind in 11th.

Series regular winners: Zane Smith (Daytona, COTA), Chandler Smith (Las Vegas), Ben Rhodes (Bristol Dirt)


Up Next

After a couple weeks off, the Truck Series visits the Track Too Tough to Tame, Darlington Raceway.

Coverage for the Dead On Tools 200 at Darlington starts on Friday night, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

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