Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Ben Rhodes Steals Charlotte, Taking an Extra $50k With Him

A bad-fast pit stop from his crew allowed Ben Rhodes to take the lead late and hold off the field on a couple of restarts to win his first race of the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26.

The win is the second of the season for ThorSport Racing and the first among its drivers competing for the championship.

With Rhodes’ win, he earns an extra $50,000 thanks to the Triple Truck Challenge that began at Charlotte.

See also
Dean Thompson Makes a Little Luck, Scores Career-Best Finish in Charlotte

Corey Heim, who led the most laps (49), finished second. Dean Thompson capitalized on a career night to finish third, while Carson Hocevar finished fourth after leading a good portion of the race. Grant Enfinger rounded out the top five.

Top Storylines of the Race

  • TRICON Garage team owner David Gilliland made his return to NASCAR, driving the team’s No. 1 truck. This race was Gilliland’s first start in the Truck Series since the spring race at Darlington Raceway in 2021. He gained some stage points and finished a respectable 14th.
  • Bayley Currey returned to Niece Motorsports’ No. 41 for his second start of the season. Ross Chastain, who also drives the No. 41, was the defending winner of the race, but due to a rule stating that no Cup drivers are allowed to compete in the Triple Truck Challenge, he did not get the chance to go back-to-back. Currey finished 13th.
  • Heim won stage one, but the story was Hocevar, who started 12th and, with about 10 laps to go in the stage, surged from the back half of the top 10 to finish second, immediately behind Heim. Hocevar got the better of Heim in stage two, winning the stage over the No. 11 by nearly six seconds.
  • The first caution for incident came on lap 82 when Armani Williams lost control of his truck in turn 4 and slid down pit road, hitting the pit wall. No one was injured from the accident, including Williams.
  • The caution came out nearly one lap after the restart when Zane Smith got loose in turn 4 – the same spot where Williams lost his truck – and slid into the infield, but not before tagging Hailie Deegan and damaging her right-side door. Luckily, Deegan kept her truck as straight as possible and prevented a huge accident. However, both trucks sustained heavy cosmetic damage, putting them out of contention for a good finish.
  • With 30 laps to go. Kris Wright squeezed Tyler Ankrum into the outside wall and got turned around, bringing out the final caution of the night. Interestingly, when FOX Sports 1 listened in on the radio of Wright’s No. 02, he claimed that Ankrum “wrecked us on purpose” despite the replays showing otherwise. Wright did not seek out retaliation on the No. 16.

The Winning Move

The final pit stop of the race for most came under the lap 82 caution. Chase Purdy won the race off of pit road, but he had taken fuel only. Hocevar, who was the leader prior to that caution, took four tires, but Rhodes, who had also taken four tires, had a faster stop and managed to beat Hocevar out of the pits.

On the restart, Purdy quickly fell back, but Rhodes was able to clear to the lead over Hocevar before the caution came out for the Smith/Deegan incident. Rhodes took advantage of wheelspin from Hocevar to take the lead outright on the restart before the field got to turn one, while Heim followed Rhodes through for second.

Following the Ankrum/Wright caution, Rhodes once again took the lead outright with 25 laps to go but couldn’t shake Heim, maintaining a less than one second lead for several laps. When Thompson got around Hocevar for third, he kept the momentum rolling and tried to pass Heim, but Heim wouldn’t let him, allowing Hocevar to catch up and the three engaged in a three-horse race for second.

Meanwhile, Rhodes’ lead grew from a little under a second to almost two and a half seconds when he crossed the line to take the win, as the battle between Heim, Thompson, and Hocevar (who finished in that order) allowed him to quietly pull away for the win.

Championship Rundown

A sixth driver has now locked themselves into the playoff race, leaving just four spots left with five races to go. Even the race winners cannot rest easy, as having more than 10 winners is still very possible.

Stewart Friesen entered Charlotte 10th in points, with just a four-point cushion over 11th-place Matt DiBenedetto. He extended that lead by virtue of gaining stage points while DiBenedetto failed to do so. However, DiBenedetto’s eighth-place finish versus Friesen’s 22nd allowed DiBenedetto to limit Friesen from gaining a ton of points on him.

Meanwhile, Heim continues to hold the points lead, as he came just a few points short of a perfect night, whereas Ty Majeski had a respectable night, finishing seventh and holding serve in second in points. Smith’s crash and subsequent 23rd-place finish marks the third straight week he has finished outside the top 20, and he will have to work a little harder than he hoped for in the coming weeks to fight for the regular-season championship.

Rookie Report

Nick Sanchez probably passed more trucks than anybody. He started 36th after failing to put down a qualifying lap. Got as high as 11th. Fell back to 20th after a bad pit stop. Clawed his way through the field again. Got caught a lap down at one point. Then he got the free pass on the final caution of the night, allowing him to pass a bunch more trucks and finish ninth after a crazy night. That superhero performance earns him Rookie of the Race.

No. 2 – Nick Sanchez (ninth)
No. 17 – Taylor Gray (10th)
No. 22 – Mason Maggio (25th)
No. 24 – Rajah Caruth (11th)
No. 30 – Ryan Vargas (26th)
No. 32 – Bret Holmes (21st)
No. 35 – Jake Garcia (15th)
No. 43 – Daniel Dye (19th)
No. 46 – Armani Williams (35th)
No. 90 – Justin Carroll (34th)

One Thought About This Race

With Rhodes taking home an extra $50,000, some of you might be wondering what the Triple Truck Challenge is. Or you just may need a refresher. So let’s talk about it.

Started in 2019, the Triple Truck Challenge is a cash-bonus incentive that awards extra prize money to the winner of one of three designated races. If a driver wins one of the three races, they earn an additional $50,000. If a driver wins two of the three races, they earn $150,000. If a driver wins all three races, they take home a $500,000 payday.

See also
Ben Rhodes Surges to Charlotte Win

The Trip, as it is often nicknamed, is the Truck equivalent to the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Dash 4 Cash. However, unlike the Dash 4 Cash, in which the top four Xfinity drivers from the previous week are eligible to compete for $100,000, the entire Truck field is eligible each week for the Triple Truck Challenge.

Also, much like the Dash 4 Cash, the three racetracks are back-to-back-to-back. This year, the three Triple Truck Challenge racetracks are Charlotte, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on June 3 and Nashville Superspeedway on June 23.

Rhodes’ win makes him the only driver eligible for the $500,000. However, Sheldon Creed is the only driver in the history of The Trip to win more than one race in the same season, which pocketed him an extra $150,000. So, for Rhodes to even win a second race will be a challenge, hence the name.

Cup drivers are not allowed to compete in Triple Truck Challenge races, which is why Chastain was denied the opportunity to defend his race win from last year. Xfinity drivers are not allowed to compete either.

Paint Scheme of the Race

Amid the red, white and blue that adorns a lot of the trucks and cars throughout the Memorial Day weekend, Heim debuted a new sponsor, Rootly, featuring a bright green, blue and white truck that I could not take my eyes off of the entire night.

Where To Next?

The Gateway Arch awaits.

The Truck Series heads off to St. Louis, where the 1.25-mile Gateway will host both the Trucks and Cup series. Heim is the defending winner of the race, and it marks the second of three races in the Triple Truck Challenge.

Coverage for the Toyota 200 presented by CK Power, which can be found on FOX Sports 1, begins at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 3.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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